Supermarket ‘fuel price wars’ may be over with no incentive to cut costs for drivers

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For years, motorists have benefitted from big supermarket chains offering the lowest petrol and diesel prices. But now, the RAC has said this trend may come to an end.

The motoring organisation believes supermarket fuel retailers have stopped using pump prices to encourage customers into their stores.

It says drivers are continuing to be hit by rising fuel prices, despite a dip in wholesale costs.

RAC Fuel Watch shows average petrol prices to have increased since the weekend again, rising to 191.23p per litre.

On average, diesel prices have dropped slightly to 198.93p per litre, although experts are warning it may hit £2 a litre in the near future.

RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said the rise in the price of petrol illustrates “the biggest retailers’ resistance to reduce their pump prices in line with the lower wholesale cost of unleaded”.

Williams added: “Rather than passing on some of the savings they are benefiting from, they are clearly banking on the wholesale market moving up again which is disappointing for drivers who are desperate to see an end to ever-rising prices. 

“Sadly, there no longer seems to be any appetite among the big four supermarkets to drive customers into their stores with lower pump prices. 

“We question whether we will ever see much competition between supermarkets over fuel again, let alone a so-called ‘price war’.”

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Meanwhile, retailers have reported a surge in verbal abuse towards forecourt staff by drivers angry at pump prices. 

Jack Cousens, head of roads policy at the AA, said: “With Wimbledon well under way, drivers may be forgiven for borrowing the iconic rant from John McEnroe as they pull up to the pump – ‘You cannot be serious!’.

“However, with some reports of aggressive behaviour towards forecourt staff, we urge people to channel the zen-like mentality of Roger Federer when refuelling and not abuse staff. 

“It is not their fault, which is why the AA is directly challenging the Government, retailers and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to find a quick and effective solution.”

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With petrol and diesel prices causing issues up and down the country, drivers are being urged to avoid filling up on the motorway.

Fuel prices have topped £2 per litre at many service stations, with motorists baulking at prices, although some may not have another option.

It’s more convenient for road users travelling along the motorway to pull in and refuel, meaning operators have a captive audience to charge higher prices.

Simon Williams also took aim at retailers, saying they were slow to react when average prices of petrol fall.

He added: “There doesn’t appear to be any sign that retailers are reducing their forecourt petrol prices despite average weekly wholesale costs having fallen for five straight weeks.

“The average cost of delivered unleaded was 145.7p a litre last week which after adding 7p a litre retailer margin and 20 percent VAT produces a price of 183p.

“Despite this, the big four supermarkets, which dominate fuel sales, are standing firm with a litre of petrol at their stores.

“We would love to hear their reasoning for keeping their prices so high in this instance, but we’ve never known them publicly defend themselves. 

“Far too often it’s the smallest retailers, who sell far less fuel combined despite having more forecourts, that stand up for the industry.”

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