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Petrol prices: Supermarkets accused of using election ‘distraction’ to keep prices high

The RAC has attacked retailers for hiking petrol prices
The RAC has attacked retailers for hiking petrol prices

Retailers have been accused of using the general election as a distraction to keep petrol and diesel prices at British pumps high.

The RAC said petrol prices are “far higher than they should be,” with motor retailers hoping no one will notice due to the “distraction” of July’s vote.

A litre of petrol currently averages 146.28p across the UK, which the RAC says is 5p more expensive than it should be given Northern Ireland’s prices are at 141.1p.

The situation for diesel is “even worse,” the motoring group added, with the UK average of 151.5p, around 10p more than is charged in Northern Ireland.

The UK’s big four supermarkets came under political scrutiny last year after an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) found Brits were paying nearly £1bn more for fuel at the pumps.

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The comparison with Northern Ireland is often used, as the big four operate around six per cent of the region’s 580 forecasts, as opposed to around a fifth of the UK’s 8,300.

RAC head of policy Simon Williams said: “While there has been much focus on fuel since the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) 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.

“Having monitored prices for so long we believe there’s no good reason for retailers in Great Britain not cutting their prices at the pumps far further.”

Petrol prices pushed higher

Fuel retailers have argued that higher energy bills, business rates and wages are bumping up costs as opposed to a failure in competition.

Gordon Balmer, executive director of the Petrol Retailers Association, said: “Current analyses that compare today’s fuel margins to historical figures overlook 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.

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

“With regards to diesel, it is important to recognise that the UK currently has the highest fuel duty in Europe, and Labour party recently failed to provide clarity on whether they would maintain the existing 5p per litre fuel duty rebate.

He added: “The PRA has maintained transparency in its dealings with the government on fuel pricing and will be meeting with officials from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to discuss this further. For motorists looking to find the lowest fuel prices in their area, we recommend using petrolprices.com.”