Retailers overcharged drivers by £5MILLION A DAY at the pumps in December

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Motorists received the gift of rip-off fuel prices for Christmas: Retailers overcharged drivers £5M-A-DAY at the pumps in December

  • Motoring group accused retailers of not passing on savings to drivers last month
  • Average unleaded prices fell by just 2p-a-litre in December but could have been cut by 12p if lower wholesale oil prices were reflected at the pumps
  • A 2p fall in diesel pump prices during the month could have been 8p, RAC says
  • It means drivers paid £156m more than they should have during December


The nation’s drivers were ripped off by £5million per day at the pumps during December by fuel retailers cashing in on lower wholesale oil prices, it has been revealed.

Average petrol prices fell by just 2p-a-litre last month, but could have gone down by 12p if full wholesale savings had been passed on to motorists, analysis by the RAC found. 

The motoring group calculated that the 2p fall in diesel pump prices could have been 8p in a move it described as ‘scandalous’.

It means drivers paid £156million more than they should have during the final month of the year.

'Scandalous': Analysis by the RAC found that average petrol prices fell by just 2p-a-litre last month, but could have gone down by 12p if full wholesale savings had been passed on

‘Scandalous’: Analysis by the RAC found that average petrol prices fell by just 2p-a-litre last month, but could have gone down by 12p if full wholesale savings had been passed on

Average unleaded dropped from 147.47p-a-litre to 145.48p when drivers should really have seen prices nearer to 135p had retailers played fair instead of taking far bigger margins than normal. 

Diesel dropped from 150.80p to 148.92p when drivers should have been paying around 142p, the latest RAC Fuel Watch report claims.

It means retailers took average margins of 16p-a-litre on petrol and 12.5p on diesel in December.

Market analysis shows the average ‘long-term’ profits pocketed by sellers is 6p on every litre of fuel sold in the UK. 

Based on a typical 55-litre family car, owners of petrol models were paying almost £6 more to fill up in December than they should have been, with an average fill up costing £80 when it could have been £74 with wholesale cost savings passed on.

For those with diesel vehicles, the average tank fill would have been £82 – some £4 more than it should have been.

RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said December had been 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’. 

AVERAGE UK PETROL PRICES IN DECEMBER 2021 BY REGION
  01/12/2021 31/12/2021 Change
UK average 147.47 145.48 -1.99
East 147.95 146.24 -1.71
East Midlands 147.78 145.15 -2.63
London 147.68 145.89 -1.79
North East 146.72 144.84 -1.88
North West 147.47 145.49 -1.98
Northern Ireland 144.52 142.61 -1.91
Scotland 147.01 145.01 -2
South East 148.3 146.64 -1.66
South West 147.59 145.5 -2.09
Wales 146.83 144.47 -2.36
West Midlands 147.44 144.92 -2.52
Yorkshire and The Humber 146.62 144.83 -1.79

He added: ‘Their [retailers’] 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 accused the sector of taking advantage of growing reports about higher energy prices and had ‘banked on the oil price rising again and catching up with their artificially inflated prices’.

That has come to fruition, with oil rising in recent days.

‘The trouble is every extra penny they take as margin leads to drivers paying even more as VAT gets added on top at the end of the forecourt transaction,’ Williams went on. 

‘This means the Treasury’s coffers have been substantially boosted on the back of the retailers’ action. We urge ministers to push retailers into doing the right thing for consumers.’ 

Gordon Balmer, executive director of the Petrol Retailers Association, which represents independent sellers – representing around 65 per cent of all UK forecourts – responded to the RAC’s report by saying the pricing data for December was not entirely accurate and claimed running costs for retailers were much higher than before.

‘December’s pump price data is less reliable because it is taken from fuel card transactions, and there have been far fewer of these transactions because of the reduction in business activity between Christmas and New Year,’ he explained. 

Retailers took average margins of 16p-a-litre on petrol and 12.5p on diesel in December, the RAC says

Retailers took average margins of 16p-a-litre on petrol and 12.5p on diesel in December, the RAC says

‘With pump prices falling towards the end of the month, car drivers travelling over the holiday period are likely to have benefited more than these figures suggest.

AVERAGE UK DIESEL PRICES IN DECEMBER 2021 BY REGION 
  01/12/2021 31/12/2021 Change
UK average 150.8 148.92 -1.88
East 151.41 149.7 -1.71
East Midlands 150.87 148.6 -2.27
London 151.38 149.38 -2
North East 150.01 148.24 -1.77
North West 150.61 148.61 -2
Northern Ireland 146.42 144.45 -1.97
Scotland 150.81 148.66 -2.15
South East 151.97 150.4 -1.57
South West 151.37 149.2 -2.17
Wales 150.54 148.45 -2.09
West Midlands 150.77 148.73 -2.04
Yorkshire and The Humber 150.49 148.64 -1.85

‘While the retail fuel market remains extremely competitive, supermarkets did not use artificially low fuel prices to lure shoppers into their stores at Christmas. 

‘The costs of running petrol stations rose all year, with electricity up 19 per cent, vastly reduced margins from fuel cards, increased national insurance and wage inflation.’ 

The RAC’s analysis found that Asda had the cheapest petrol at the end of 2021 with a litre costing an average of 141.81p at their stores, with Sainsbury’s not far behind at 142.57p. 

Asda also sold the lowest priced diesel at 144.9p a litre ahead of Tesco on 145.8p. 

The average price of motorway unleaded at the close of December was 160.55p -some 15p more than average national prices.

Drivers filling up at motorway services with diesel on return from spending the festive period with their families were charged a staggering 163.43p per litre on average.

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