Personal Finance

Cheap petrol and diesel price plan hatched as drivers face ‘galling’ and ‘unfair’ costs

A new plan that could bring down petrol and diesel prices in the UK is set to be announced by the Government.

Drivers will be told the price of fuel at every petrol station in the country to make the costs more competitive and even under the plans.

There are already online hacks to keep an eye on petrol prices in your area (more on that below) but the new procedure would require stations to submit their fees to a central body, bringing more transparency for motorists.

A new unit could also be established to set benchmark fuel prices based on wholesale market rates, the Times reports. This would address driver frustration over petrol stations being quick to increase prices but slow to bring prices down.

Wholesale petrol prices dropped 23p per litre in nine weeks between mid-October and mid-December 2022 but it took retailers a month to catch up, and even then prices only fell 18p, research by RAC found.

It was even worse for diesel drivers - wholesale prices fell 32p a litre over eight weeks but pump prices only fell 20p a litre.

Supermarkets, which sell the most fuel, only cut prices by less than 2p a week over three months, and even then didn’t go far enough, the RAC said.

However, in Northern Ireland, where a similar price-watch scheme is already in place, drivers pay significantly less for fuel compared to the rest of the UK. The Consumer Council’s Fuel Price Checker, which is updated weekly and shows the highest, lowest and average prices in different areas, is thought to be partly behind the cheaper rates as it forces petrol stations to keep prices competitive.

In separate analysis, the RAC found Northern Ireland saw the biggest drop in fuel prices in December 2022 when wholesale prices plummeted. The RAC said petrol and diesel should have dropped 11p and 14p respectively across the UK in December, but it only dropped an average 8.4p and 9.4p.

However in Northern Ireland, petrol prices fell 11.4p and diesel 11.7p, more in line with the RAC's estimates.

RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said: “Our data shows that when wholesale prices increase, pump prices tend to rise very soon afterwards. Yet, when wholesale prices fall it takes far longer for forecourt prices to come down. This is the ‘feather’ element of what’s commonly known as ‘rocket and feather’ pricing.

“This is a galling situation for drivers who are struggling more than ever given the impacts of the wider cost-of-living crisis.

“We urge the Government to focus on ensuring retailers quickly pass on savings to drivers every time there is significant downward movement in the wholesale price of fuel – not just to ensure drivers aren’t treated unfairly, but also because there is a clear correlation between high fuel prices and higher levels of inflation.”

Although the plans have not been rubber stamped, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has asked Treasury officials to look at blueprints for both a voluntary scheme and legislation to enforce compliance, according to the Times.

Petrol prices near me

Petrol prices near where you live or work can be found at or on its app. Simply add the postcode for your location and it will provide prices from nearby forecourts, including petrol prices at supermarkets.

Reviews of the PetrolPrices app are mixed, with one user saying it helped him save 20p a litre at garages just 200 metres apart. But another said the prices were not accurate for where they lived. That's because the app is only as strong as its subscribers, with prices being inputted by users rather than any other automatic software, so prices may not always be up to date.

That being said, if you're in a new area and not sure of where the cheaper petrol and diesel stations are, the website could serve to provide pointers on places that are generally good value, even if the prices aren't completely accurate.


Helen Barnett

Helen is a journalist, editor and copywriter with 15 years' experience writing across print and digital publications. She previously edited the Daily Express website and has won awards as a reporter. Read more here.


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