THE UK's largest heating oil company has been fined £51,000 for overcharging customers in Carmarthenshire.

GB Oils, which trades under at least 44 different trading names including OJ Williams, pleaded guilty at Ammanford Magistrates Court to 17 offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

The company admitted failing to provide information on the true price of heating oil, causing consumers to make transactional decisions they would otherwise not have made.

Carmarthenshire County Council brought the prosecution on behalf of complainants from Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire. Barrister Lee Reynolds of Apex Chambers, prosecuting, told the court the case revolved around GB OilsÕ failure to give its customers the true price of domestic heating oil.

Many of the customers were charged approximately 15p/litre more than quoted or than they had expected to pay.

GB Oils had bought OJ Williams not long before the offences were committed between December 2009 and February 2010.

Customers experienced difficulties in getting their complaints heard and had been left unhappy with the way the matter was dealt with.

Most refused to pay the price charged.

Mr Reynolds said: "OJ Williams was a long established oil distribution company and had a good reputation throughout the communities that it served. It had a regular and loyal customer base.

"Some customers did not even ask the price of the oil because they thought they would be charged a fair and competitive price when billed."

Mark Turner QC, for GB Oils, apologised on behalf of GB Oils.

GB Oils was fined £3,000 for each of the 17 offences and was ordered to pay a £15 surcharge.