Who are you buying your domestic heating oil from?

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Lots of oil supplier brands

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Ah, well, it's easy to answer, right? Boilerjuice, Butler, Bayford, Watson, or Scottish Fuels. Simple, eh?

Or is it?

Thanks to John Kelleher[1] who alerted us to the fact that many of the oil companies (that includes both domestic heating oil and other industrial oils) are linked together. Basically, one big company owns many of the others, so many are part of the same larger group. There's a less independent "choice" than consumers might have hoped for.

The biggest consolidating agent is GB Oils, although the info on their website is pretty minimal. GB Oils is based in Warrington, and is the largest single oil-distribution company in Great Britain. It is also a division of a massive services conglomerate, the DCC group (based in Dublin, but operating in at least 4 countries: UK, Ireland, Austria and Denmark). Within the British Isles but outside of England and Wales, GB Oils operates as Emo Oil (Ireland, north and south) and Scottish Fuels. GB (Emo) Oils has expanded rapidly in recent years, executing many take-overs of smaller oil distributors.

On the petrol forecourts, they operate as Shell and Texaco.

It's worth reading up on the extensive details of the mergers and acquisitions that the DCC group has been involved with. Energy distribution names include: CPL Petroleum, Southern Counties Fuel, Chevron Ltd., Speed Fuel Oils Ltd., Jackson Fuels Ltd., Bayford Oil (one of their bigger acquisitions), and most recently, Brogan Holdings (Scotland). GB Oils has also acquired Carlton Fuels, Martindales, the Boilerjuice website, and Pearts in Hartlepool.

DCC has a stated ambition of achieving a 20% share of the British oil distribution market. DCC also distributes LPG, under the Flogas brand.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has been monitoring DCC's oil sector moves for a while. Because of competition concerns (or concern about lack thereof) the OFT made GB Oils sell its distribution interests in the Western Isles of Scotland in April 2010. Those concerns arose after GB Oils acquisition of Brogan Holdings.

What's worse, a lot of the seemingly independently price-comparison websites are not that independent at all: See this list here and which website is owned by which company; most of them ultimately owned by DCC. Quite depressing stuff, really, if you wanted a truly independent search engine! Another supposedly impartial fuel search engine that we know about is Fuel Oil Direct: their site is funded by companies paying to list with them, but they are still a DCC company.

At least now we know why so many companies readily agree to price match with their so-called competitors -- they may not really be competitors at all!

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14 Comments

by UnHappy Watson Customer on 07 November 2012 Reply
ALWAYS ask for the 2000 lt rate from Watson Fuels, they have a policy of going in with a high price expecting customers to try and knock them down, always ask for a better price
by GP on 08 March 2012 Reply
WHAT GB OILS DONT WANT YOU TO KNOW YET!

Just so you are all aware GB Oils (DCC) are currently undergoing a review of their business and currently making mass redundancies across the North West and North East.

A major part of this has resulted in a rebranding exercise. Following in depth consultation they have quickly realised that now they can no longer hide behind their individual brand and they have to advise customers they belong to the GB brand which resulted from the OFT's findings. Now for the best bit..... Due to the negative press associated with GB Oils/DCC there is going to be a massive rebranding project and all companies will be trading under GULF (another acquisition). Everyone can associate with Gulf as a long standing brand - HOW LONG BEFORE THEY TRASH THE GULF REPUTATION. Be aware of who you are dealing with when receiving quotes.

by Kay Smithson on 30 November 2011 Reply
Fuel Care (Honiton, Devon) were bought out by

DCC in October 2011: they told me so when asked . . .

by another ex employee on 23 September 2011 Reply
Bad news everybody. Total Butler is now owned by DCC/GB Oils!!!
by Another ex-employee on 07 October 2011 Reply
I recently left GB Oils - I couldn't ethically justify working there, the price fixing and treatment of customers (and staff) is terrible. People will freeze to death because they can't afford the inflated prices GB charge, apparantly some redundancies of staff was due to a downturn in trade this year (hot April.spring etc) They have also have sought some forecasting for the coming winter and say we are in for a mild one - how wrong could they be! CHeck out the long range and most experts will agree that due to La Nina and low sun spot activity its gonna be another cold one, GB could cope with demand last year, less staff for this year can only mean they will fail to deliver vital supplies to domestics and farmers again in isolated areas.
by kelvin on 25 September 2011 Reply
Total butler is better than DCC/GB Oils. FACT !!
by recent ex employee on 18 August 2011 Reply
Having worked for GB fuels for a number of years I couldnt believe it took people quite so long to work out what was going on. However people still do not realise the half of it and even the OFT have been seriously mislead by their pricing techniques. So heres how it works we all have access to all Brands orders/quotes Mrs Smith calls in and asks for a price on heating fuel upon checking her post code we check to see if she is a live customer with any other brand a live domestic customer is if they have ordered in 12 months, an agricultural customer is 9 months and commercial 6 months. So assuming Mrs Smith has ordered with lets say Pearts one of the newer aquisitions we check to see if there is a price on that account and if not we artificially inflate the price so if she phones them it looks like she is getting a better price. If a price has already been entered we would go in just slightly higer as not to look to expensive. Personally Im glad to be out of it the company is a sham. So to anyone with an hour to spare and you have a live account with any brand get your price and then call other brands in that area and I guarantee you will not get a cheaper price -SCAM

by James Bradly on 23 September 2011 Reply
DCC have just annouced that they are purchasing Total Butler to add yet another supplier to their ever growing domination of the heating oil market place.
by kheating doil on 27 May 2011 Reply
it's a crucial point. and one that many people seem to be unaware of. the fact that many companies are not impartial. there should be a law againt it in my opinion.
by Chris on 24 April 2011 Reply
I find it a little worrying that there are more comparison sited popping up - I always check these prices but still ring all the locals AND always get a better price than on-line (and some cannot even supply to our postcode)! It also helps that I am purchasing on behalf of 300 members to our group monthly and in quantities over 30000Ltrs at a time, great for me and our members as we average around 5p per litre discount
by Kraig Johnson on 22 March 2011 Reply
Fuel Tool is a new company born out of the heating oil crisis during the winter of 2010. As a home heating oil purchaser and owner of a web design company, we decided that local smaller oil suppliers needed a voice. So we created a platform from which they could be heard. www.fueltool.co.uk was launched on March 17, 2011. Fuel Tool is independent and neither owned or affiliated with any oil distributor or supplier. Our aim is simple. To provide members of the public with a one stop shop for cheap oil. You enter the quantity of oil you need along with your postcode and we search local suppliers in your area. What Fuel Tool hopes to achieve is to provide a service which benefits both customers and suppliers alike. We hope you will visit Fuel Tool in the near future and tell you friends about it too. All feedback is welcome.
by James on 13 March 2013 Reply
A good looking site, are you prepared to inform your customers how much the site earns for getting the order?
by James Almond on 29 March 2011 Reply
I've heard about Fuel Tool. They are very much like other comparison sites, yet they want it to be anonymous so you only get the best price. They've got a rating system to differentiate the suppliers. I hear they cover 1.4 million UK postcodes. That is more than any other comparison website.
by Geoff on 26 December 2011 Reply
I tried them at the end of August this year and they were a good few pence cheaper than I could find elsewhere. The order was satisfied through a company based in Scotland I believe (I'm in Suffolk) and they took credit cards with no surcharge. I like how Fuel Tool tell you what the suppliers terms are in this respect before you choose which deal you want. Delivery was on time and although they couldn't put in as much as was ordered I was promptly refunded the difference. I'll certainly be checking them for a quote next time (but will naturally look around just to be sure).
by John Swindells on 22 March 2011 Reply
Thanks for this info, Kraig. Let's hope that the smaller suppliers can get sufficient business to avoid being swallowed up by a monopolising multinational!
by plumbing on 18 March 2011 Reply
Living room heaters come in many sizes and styles to work well in any size room or climate. Living room heaters help make the most comfortable room in your home even more comfortable.
by Michael on 23 January 2011 Reply
I've been running a price comparison site, CheapestOil.co.uk, for nearly 3 years now.

Would it help if everyone else just put "Not a DCC Company" on their website?

by Jen on 17 February 2011 Reply
I've just discovered my 'local' company has also become part of GB oils and are charging 82ppl!!! (that's for gas oil - plus VAT of course) I am horrified!
by Alan on 01 February 2011 Reply
Just checked your price 55ppl - same as Boilerjuice! Are all the suppliers large n small ripping us off?
by Michael on 02 February 2011 Reply
Hi Alan,

I'm not a supplier. Cheapest Oil just surveys prices before putting you directly through to the distributor. The site is paid for by ads and sales of oil tank monitors so it is important to me to get as many people on the site as possible and the best way I can do that is to have content you want to keep coming back to.

For all of Ireland, I have quotes from around 40 to 50 oil distributors many of whom are now working with the site as best they can as they can see the massive difference to their website visitor numbers (and presumably orders). However, it has been much more difficult to get distributors in England, Scotland and Wales listed despite the fact that those that do receive thousands of visitors from us.

So if you know any, point them to cheapestoil.org for information on how to get featured (all completely free).

Thanks

Michael

Cheapest Oil Ltd

Reg. No. NI071311

by James on 17 April 2012 Reply
I have found cheapestoil to be a really useful site as it shows the prices of heating all companies and their best price they have available on the day. All this is shown on one screen with the link through to the relevant company and the price they quoted in my area (LN7)there are only 2 companies submitting their prices: celticfueloils and fuelfighter, but it would be great to see the likes of Boilerjuice, whichoilsupplier and the rest putting forward their prices and save us the time of having to get quotes from multiple sites. Come on heating oil companies - put your prices in one place and lets see who is really the cheapest!
by John Swindells on 25 January 2011 Reply
Keep an eye out for industry break-ups in the not-too-distant future.

Great work with your CheapestOil website by the way!

by Mike in Cornwall on 16 January 2011 Reply
I see that Fuel Oil Direct receommended earlier in this thread as independent is yet another DCC company.
by Graham on 04 March 2011 Reply
The article doesn't say that at all - it states clearly that the site is owned by DCC.
by John Swindells on 04 March 2011 Reply
I edited the article after Mike pointed out the inaccuracy. (Fuel Oil Direct had been independent when we first wrote the article last July.)
by Jim Willsher on 23 January 2011 Reply
Interesting thread and article. I've used BpilerJuice in the past for comparison and trends, but I've then phoned distributors direct.

However there's still a huge disparity - I've just entered details at BoilerJuice and WhichOilSupplier (2000 litres, PH2). Boilerjuice are quoting me 57.65 whilst WhichOilSupplier are quoting an eye-watering 75.29! A 30% difference. Ouch.

by John Swindells on 16 January 2011 Reply
Oh my goodness, thanks for pointing that out Mike! The DCC logo is starting to appear on various websites now.
by perthshire residentt on 14 January 2011 Reply
this explains the problems which I have had with Brogan Fuels recently. I have used them without a problem for ten years. When I tried to order some domestic fuel at the end of November ( before the snow crisis had materalised ) they were unable to deliver until 17th Dec and refused to give me even a guide price. They were always able to give me a price before and they were able to deliver usually within three days. I tried a few of the other names which you have mentioned not realising that they were part of the same group. They were equally unhelpful. I did manage to get a supply in early december from a local company, Carnagie Fuels, who were able to deliver within three days and at a reasonable price.It looks as if Brogans standards are now very different to what they were before being taken over. I for one will not be going back to Brogans. I know I am not the only one which they have shafted during the last month or so.
by Another Perthshire resident on 18 January 2011 Reply
Your coments are an exact mirror, almost to the day with my experience with brogans. Ordered 1st dec /del. 24dec no price given that far in advance ended up paying 71pence per litre!!!! Worse still no bill sent till 14 th jan must pay by 15 th to get discount .I will be contacting Watchdog to set Anne onto them!! (please do the same)
by ukoilman on 07 September 2010 Reply
I, with 30 yrs in the industry now own boilerjuice.co, directoil.co, heatingfuels.co, heatingoils.co, heating-oils.co.uk, oildistributor.co, oildistributor.co.uk, oilsupplier.co and totaloils.co. All sites currently mirror the Goff site which I have been designing over the last 12 years as a hobby and at times it shows.

I too am incensed by the lack of transparency of the Boilerjuice.co.uk or com sites and other sites with permanent ownership links to certain distributorships. This pushes prices up and smells of price rigging. No accusations here but I have been too long in the business not too smell rats and big ones at that.

My sites will all be the same and compete on the original basis of boilerjuice and remain independent. I first thought of the idea of on line ordering and quotes over 14 years ago with Goff but then I moved to the USA. I'm back and gonna clean up this mess with some help I hop[e.

by John Swindells on 07 September 2010 Reply
ukoilman, can you please explain how you are affiliated to Goff?
by ukoilman on 22 November 2010 Reply
I design their website, but prior too that I worked in the oil industry as a Senior Credit Manager in the UK and US. Goff was a former customr of mine.
by Chris Bale on 23 August 2010 Reply
I note that you link to our post on the WhichOilSupplier blog and this seems to be a source for your article. However, you do not make it clear that WhichOilSupplier is a completely independent heating oil comparison site. Mark Armstrong and Chris Bale run this site and our backgrounds are in environmental consultancy and ecommerce marketing. I hope you approve this comment so that the article reads accurately. Thank you, Chris.
by John Swindells on 31 August 2010 Reply
Thanks for pointing this out, Chris.

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