Petrol and diesel retailers accused of ‘taking advantage’ of drivers – ‘scandalous’

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Drivers in the UK paid £146million more for petrol than they should have in the last month of 2021 according to the RAC. The motoring organisation also accused fuel retailers of not passing savings on to customers at the pumps.

But Gordon Balmer, Executive Director at the Petrol Retailers Association refuted the claims, saying his members are under pressure.

He said that the costs of running a petrol station rose all year, including electricity climbing 19 percent.

He also said that retailers themselves don’t want the record prices seen throughout last year, when all previous records were broken for petrol and diesel.

He told Bloomberg: “We don’t want to charge high prices. It’s not in anybody’s interest to charge high prices to customers.

“We want to provide the prices at a fair rate so we’re very, very willing to engage with the Government and also the RAC for them to have a proper dialogue with our industry and our members, in order for them to understand the pressures that we’re under.

“We’re still operating in a pre-pandemic market. So the volume numbers in terms of the actual sales in December were around 90 percent of what they were pre-pandemic.

And in the last week of December, they actually were down to 78 percent.”

Prices fell in December for the first time since 2020, with petrol down 2p a litre.

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However RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said: “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.

“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.

“The 10p extra retailers have added to their long-term margin of 6p a litre has led to petrol car drivers paying £5million more a day than they previously would have.”

Mr Balmer said the Omicron variant had led to reduced demand, crude oil prices had increased and the switch to E10 fuel had played a part.

He said: “Brent crude is now up to over $82 a barrel, the largest increase for a long time since late November.

“That’s on the back of Omicron, what it’s doing to a number of economies around the world, and also the situation in Kazakhstan.

“The Government has their renewable transport fuels obligation, which is the amount of biofuels that have to blend into petrol and diesel – that’s affected prices as well.

“So both petrol and diesel will have gone up on the back of rising ethanol and biodiesel.”

He added that retailers need the current prices in order to sustain profit, saying: “If you actually look over a longer term for the whole of 2021 the margin on petrol was around 10 pence a litre now, these are the sorts of numbers that our members actually need in order to run a profitable business.

This week it was revealed that Shell and BP saw profits rise in just three months of last year from £750million to £5.5billion.

Craig Mackinlay MP, Chair of the APPG for Fair Fuel for Motorists and Hauliers said: “Sadly, the Government’s efforts to work with the fuel industry so that pump prices are competitive, and market driven, ensuring consumers benefit from lower prices, is not working.

“The reality is that motorists are now paying £16 per tank more than last year and nearly £2billion of falls in the wholesale price have not been passed onto hard-pressed motorists at the pumps.”

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