Currently reading: Petrol drivers 'overcharged by £156 million' in December
Unleaded fuel cost 147.47p per litre but the RAC says prices should have been closer to 135p per litre “had retailers played fair”

Drivers of petrol vehicles have been significantly overcharged for fuel as retailers failed to reduce pricing in line with falls in wholesale prices, the RAC has said. 

The motoring organisation suggests the high prices cost drivers of petrol vehicles around £156 million in the final month of the year, or around £5 million a day, despite lower wholesale prices. 

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Prices of unleaded fuel were lowered to 147.47p per litre from 154.48p, but the RAC says prices should have fallen closer to 135p per litre “had retailers played fair”. 

Diesel only dropped by 2p per litre, from 150.80p to 148.92p. The RAC says drivers should have been paying around 142p. 

“December was a rotten month for drivers as they were taken advantage of by retailers, who rewrote their pump price strategy, costing motorists millions of pounds as a result,” said Simon Williams, an RAC fuel spokesperson. 

“Their resistance to cutting prices and to only pass on a fraction of the savings they were making from lower wholesale costs is nothing short of scandalous,” Williams said. “The 10p extra retailers have added to their long-term margin of 6p a litre has led to petrol car drivers paying £5m more a day than they previously would have.”

It is estimated that retailers took an average margin of 16p a litre on petrol instead of a long-term margin goal of 6p, and 12p on diesel. The RAC claims this cost drivers £6 more to fill up a 55-litre petrol car and the average diesel driver paid £4 more. 

“In the past when wholesale prices have dropped, retailers have always done the right thing –eventually – and reduced their pump prices,” Williams said. 

“This time, they’ve stood strong, taking advantage of all the media talk about ‘higher energy prices’ and banked on the oil price rising again and catching up with their artificially inflated prices, which it has now done.”

The Petrol Retailers Association disagreed with the RAC’s claims, suggesting the December data is less reliable because it was “taken from fuel card transactions.”

“There have been far fewer of these transactions because of the reduction in business activity between Christmas and new year,” Gordon Balmer, executive director of the association, told the BBC.  

"The costs of running petrol stations rose all year, with electricity up 19%, vastly reduced margins from fuel cards, increased national insurance and wage inflation," he said, stating the fuel market is still “extremely competitive”. 

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The RAC has called for government ministers to act and push retailers into “doing the right thing for consumers”, claiming the only benefit of high fuel prices is that it gives drivers more reason to consider switching to an electric car. 

It was also shown that supermarket stores were selling the cheapest fuel, with Asda charging 141.81p for petrol, followed by Sainsbury’s at 142.57p per litre. Asda also charged the lowest prices for diesel, at 144.9p, while Tesco priced diesel at 145.8p. 

Motorway prices for petrol averaged 160.55p, with diesel costing drivers 163.43p. The south-east of the UK charged the most for both petrol and diesel and Northern Ireland had the cheapest prices, according to the RAC's figures. 

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bol 6 January 2022

The price is only going one way as people move away from fossil fuels. I've always thought in a market economy companies were allowed to set their prices wherever the market would bear.  

My last 5000 miles' fuel has cost me just over £100, and I can wake up every morning with a full tank if I like. Once my MX5 has gone I doubt I'll ever trouble a petrol station again, other than for snacks. 

Peter Cavellini 6 January 2022

As EV cars become the norm the loss of Road Tax, the income from fossil fuels which allegedly help pay for the Road infrastructure (not all of it), EV for a while will reduce running costs, meanwhile yo yo fuel prices will continue, the further the fuel stations are away from a refinery the more it costs, it has to to cover the costs from refinery to pump, Station operators can't run at a loss, if their product costs more to buy in they've got to raise there prices just to make the same profits, a lot of People don't want to know that, or, how about this, make all the fuel Stations state owned, would we like that?

Scribbler 6 January 2022

I don't disagree with you, but two alternative arguments:

  • As we get nearer to 2030, the oil companies that still have retail operations in the UK will have to start building "next-gen" fuel stations that are designed more around EVs and less for ICE vehicles. Some have already uveiled designs for what they have in mind. I don't know if they plan to demolish or adapt existing forecourts to fall into line with these new designs. My point is that the oil companies and their franchise operators can't pass on all of the costs of this buiding programme to existing ICE vehicle owners.
  • The long-term road tax loss to HM Treasury becasue of EVs is an interesting conundrum and is currently being cited as a reason why VAT won't be reduced or removed from our electricity bills to help mitigate current energy costs. The thinking is that if the Treasury yields ground on that issue even for a year or two it will be harder in later years to insist on VAT remaining on electricity bills after we move away from ICE vehicles.
scotty5 6 January 2022

People can huff and puff all they want but if they continue to use fuel at these 'overcharged' prices then why bother? Start a fuel protest like the lorry drivers did all those years ago.

They can blame companies all they want but the fact remains the UK is one of the cheaper countries for fuel. Why are our prices so high? It's because of the tax, we have one of the highest fuel taxes. So is that where you should aim your protests?

Blame the Government? Well you could do but then if they remove the tax on fuel they'll do what other countries do and start road charging or whatever else to recoup their losses.

The cost of fuel has risen all over the world and they're all complaining too.