Motorists ‘overcharged 12p a litre' for petrol as fuel costs rise despite wholesale price fall

Supermarkets and petrol retailers have been been accused of overcharging motorists by as much as 12p a litre for fuel by increasing prices despite falling wholesale costs.

The cost of a litre of unleaded went up by 3.1p last month to 147.3p while diesel increased by 2.7p to 151.1p – despite wholesale prices falling by 10p to their lowest levels since September.

The RAC has called on retailers to cut petrol prices by 12p a litre, saving motorists £6.60 when filling up a 55-litre fuel tank and diesel by 7p, which would save £3.85.

Without action, it warned that motorists on the tightest incomes may be forced to take their cars off the road.

Meanwhile the Conservative MP for Harlow, Robert Halfon, and the FairFuelUK campaign ordered a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigation of the “needless high prices at the pumps” and a new fuel watchdog to protect consumers’ interests.

“Sadly, our data shows all too clearly that drivers are being taken for a ride by retailers at the moment,” said RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams.

“Much earlier in the pandemic we saw retailers’ margin on fuel understandably increase as the oil price plummeted on the back of people being told to stay at home.

“Despite the news of a new Covid variant, we are in a completely different world now with car use near to pre-pandemic levels so retailers shouldn’t be taking huge profits on every litre of fuel they sell.

“We therefore urge them to do the right thing and cut their prices to much fairer levels as matter of urgency.”

The Petrol Retailers Association sought to defend independently owned forecourts, saying they continue to provide good value for money.

“The majority of our members buy fuel from their fuel supplier at a price which is based on the average price of fuel from the previous week. Therefore, any reductions in wholesale prices will take some days to filter through to the pump price,” said executive director Gordon Balmer.

But FairFuelUK’s founder Howard Cox told i the fuel price crisis began “further up the fuel chain”.

“Most retailers are price-governed and tied into wholesalers and branded oil corp suppliers. Supermarkets of late are less competitive than usual, but still remain cheaper as they buy direct from refineries.”

Mr Cox said the UK’s 37 million drivers were “sick to death with being treated as cash cows by the Government, and used as profit-making machines by a faceless greedy fuel supply chain”.

“It’s time for FairFuelUK’s long called for PumpWatch and a CMA inquiry into making pump pricing transparent, fair and honest.”

Mr Halfon, who backed FairFuelUK, told i “big oil companies are taking motories for fuels”.

“It’s a complete con and there needs to be an inquiry as to what is going on. Why is there a rocket approach when international oil prices go up yet a feather approach when oil prices go down?

“I think on the whole supermarkets tend to try and cut petrol prices. This is coming from the petrol stations and the providers.

“We’ve got a cost of living crisis and petrol and diesel prices have one of the biggest impacts on working households. And it isn’t just motorists, it also affects our bus prices, it affects food prices, it affects the NHS because they have to pay a lot more… So this affects everyone whether they drive a car or not.”

Asked to respond to concerns about its petrol pricing, supermarket Morrisons pointed to a statement from the British Retail Consortium, which said: “Supermarkets work hard to pass on changes in wholesale prices to relieve pressure on consumers, though prices at the pump will be influenced by various forces, including tax, oil prices and operational costs.”

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