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‘Heartless’ supermarkets accused of overcharging for festive fuel

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

The RAC has warned that this festive season is set to be the most expensive ever on the roads with petrol and diesel both at record highs for the festive period.

Petrol is currently being sold for an average of 152.96p a litre which is 7p more than it was on 22 December 2021 (145.66p). At 175.75p a litre, diesel is 27p more expensive on the nation’s forecourts than it was a year ago (148.95p).

The RAC calculated that a tank of petrol for a family driving to see family and friends now costs nearly £4 more at £84 than it did last Christmas when it cost £80. For those travelling in diesel cars it’s even worse with a fill-up now costing nearly £97 – almost £15 more than last year when it cost £82.

The RAC says petrol retailers are overcharging drivers as the wholesale price of petrol has fallen to 106p a litre – the same price it was this time last year.

Minister seeks answers on fuel

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has written to petrol retailers demanding that they clarify how they are charging for petrol following the RAC’s findings.

Shapps pointed out that the Competition and Market Authority’s analysis of the fuel sector “found evidence that on occasion the price of fuel at the pump has fallen more slowly than it rises following changes in the price of crude oil.”

The letter said: “…It is concerning to see that the CMA’s emerging findings point to retail fuel margins rising year on year over the past five years ahead of general inflation… I urge you all to engage fully, openly and transparently with the CMA to explain changes in pricing behaviour.”

Current fuel prices include the government’s 5p fuel duty discount which was introduced in March to ease the pain of rising fuel prices caused by Russia invading Ukraine. The wholesale price of diesel has dropped to 126p a litre which is only 14p more expensive than just before last Christmas (112p).

The RAC calculates that the average price of petrol should be around 138p – 15p cheaper than it actually is, and that diesel should be around 160p a litre – 13p cheaper than it is now.

‘Drivers heartlessly overcharged’

Simon Williams, RAC fuel spokesman, said: “With the cost-of-living crisis making this one of the toughest Christmases on record, it is even more galling to know drivers are being heartlessly overcharged for fuel making this the most expensive ever festive getaway on the roads.

“The big four supermarkets, which dominate UK fuel retailing, have robustly refused to significantly lower their forecourt prices to reflect what’s happened with the substantial reduction in the price of wholesale fuel that they are enjoying.

“We now have a bizarre situation where many smaller independent retailers are charging far less for their fuel than the supermarkets. The trouble is after years of the supermarkets being the cheapest place to fill up many drivers automatically assume this is still the case and may be losing out as a result.

“We urge the supermarkets to properly cut their petrol and diesel prices to give drivers the Christmas present they deserve. Sadly though, having seen a similar situation last year where the biggest retailers failed to pass on much lower wholesale costs, we’re not holding out much hope they will do the right thing this year. We suspect they’re just going to try to tough out all our calls for price cuts in the hope the price of oil will go back up in the new year.”