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Coronavirus fears see drivers pay less at the pumps

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak
Posted:
Updated:
04/03/2020

Fuel costs fell last month as drivers benefited from a slump in the oil price due to coronavirus fears.

February saw the price of unleaded petrol fall by 3p a litre while diesel drivers saw savings of 4p a litre.

These are some of the biggest monthly reductions seen since the start of 2000, according to data from RAC Fuel Watch.

The price of unleaded fell to 124.02p a litre, while diesel fell to 127.04p a litre.

This means filling up a 55-litre family car with petrol cost £1.62 less than it did at the start of the year (£68.21) while diesel drivers have saved £2.33, taking a full tank to £69.87.

The pump price reductions have been driven by a $10 slump in the price of a barrel of oil from a high of $60.28 on 20 February to $50.41 by the close of the month.

The RAC said the wholesale price of unleaded dropped to below 90p a litre, and 92p for diesel, before delivery, retailer margin and VAT.

The motoring group said the spread of coronavirus had prompted fears of slower global demand, after previously saying the epidemic should lead to ‘dramatically’ cheaper UK petrol prices.

Asda led the way among the big four supermarket fuel retailers by selling petrol for 116.78p a litre, 3.5p lower than at the start of February and 3.4p cheaper than rivals. It cut diesel by nearly 6p to 118.8p, making it 4p cheaper than the nearest competitor.

‘Fair price for drivers’

The RAC is calling on retailers to keep cutting their pump prices so drivers are charged a fair price which properly reflects the large reductions on the wholesale market.

RAC fuel spokesman, Simon Williams, said: “February was a good month for drivers with two rounds of supermarket price cuts, both led by Asda, which put an end to two consecutive monthly rises. These resulted in 3p being shaved off the average price of petrol and 4p off diesel.

“While it is good drivers are benefiting from lower forecourt prices, in reality the wholesale price is such that the big four supermarkets, which dominate UK fuel retailing, should cut their prices again. At the moment both fuels are 6p a litre too expensive which means for petrol we should really be seeing a UK average of 118p. Unfortunately, we don’t think diesel will come down to the 2017 price of 119p a litre due to wholesale prices only dropping to 92p a litre briefly as a result of oil suffering its biggest weekly decline in more than four years.

“The oil price has slumped due to the spread of the coronavirus prompting fears of slower global demand. This may well lead to a move from oil producer group OPEC and its allies to restrict production when they stage an extraordinary meeting in Vienna on Friday. If they decide to take action to prop up the barrel price it would very likely put an end to falling forecourt fuel prices.”