Petrol retailers accused of using general election distraction to unfairly pump up prices | Personal Finance | Finance


Petrol forecourts are ripping off drivers by pumping up prices “far higher than they should be”, according to the RAC.

The organisation said retailers – including the big supermarkets – are using the “distraction” of the General Election to keep margins “persistently high”.

The RAC has called on the official competition watchdog – the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) – to use new powers to put an end to the alleged scam.

An earlier CMA investigation found that petrol retailers inflated the margin between what they pay for petrol and what they sell following Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine.

It has been confirmed that retailers continue to take a higher margin than has been the case historically in a policy it has described as “concerning”.

The RAC, which has long campaigned over fuel costs, says prices at the pumps have remained high despite wholesale costs having fallen since the end of April.

The average price of a litre of petrol is 146.3p, which it said was 5p higher than it should be given the equivalent price in Northern Ireland is 141.1p.

The group also said that the UK has seen the most expensive diesel prices in Europe for the past seven weeks, with the average litre costing 151.5p.

The average margin per litre for retailers is currently 14p on petrol and 16p on diesel, RAC data found, which it said appeared “excessively high” given the long-term margins for both fuels are 8p a litre.

RAC head of policy Simon Williams said: “While there has been much focus on fuel since the Competition and Markets Authority concluded the biggest retailers had overcharged drivers by £900m in 2022, margins are once again staying persistently high – and drivers are paying the price.

“Our data clearly shows that pump prices haven’t fallen in line with the reduction in wholesale prices, so drivers across the UK – with the exception of those in Northern Ireland where fairer prices are charged – are once again losing several pounds every time they fill up.”

The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) said comparing current fuel margins to historical figures overlooks “several critical factors”.

“We must consider the significant increases in operating costs, reduced fuel volumes post-pandemic, and the substantial investments required to transition to a low-carbon transportation system,” said Gordon Balmer, the PRA’s executive director.

“These factors mean that fuel retailers need to earn more from fuel sales to stay in business and invest in the future.”

He added that forecourts are “ideally suited” to electric vehicle charging points, and many PRA members were investing in these “despite the slower-than-anticipated uptake of electric vehicles and the long payback periods for such investments”.

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