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

  • Last month, Motoring Group accused retailers of failing to pass on savings to drivers.
  • The average unleaded price fell just 2p/litre in December, but would have fallen by 12p if wholesale oil prices had been lower at the pumps
  • RAC reports that a drop of 2p in diesel pump prices may have led to an 8p increase during the month.
  • 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.

The average petrol price fell just 2p/litre last month. However, it could have fallen by as much as 12p if all wholesale savings were passed onto motorists. 

Motoring groups calculated that the drop in diesel prices of 2p could have resulted in 8p, a move they called’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

When drivers were expecting prices to be closer to 135p, the average price of unleaded fell to 145.48p-a-litre. Retailers should not have taken large profits but instead played fair. 

The latest RAC Fuel Watch report states that diesel dropped to 150.80p from 148.92p. However, drivers shouldn’t have paid more than 142p.

This means that retailers had average margins between 16p and 12.5p for petrol and diesel in December.

An analysis of the market shows that the average “long-term” profit earned by sellers in the UK was 6p per litre. 

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.

Simon Williams, the spokesperson for RAC fuel said December was a ‘rotten” month because drivers were ‘taken advantage’ by retailers. He explained that they rewrote pump pricing strategies and cost motorists millions. 

  01/12/2021 31/12/2021 There is always 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 said, “Their…” [retailers’]The scandalous act of refusing to reduce prices while only passing on a portion of savings from lower wholesale cost is nothing but scandalous.

Williams claimed that the sector was taking advantage of rising energy prices. He said they had “banked on oil prices rising again” and would catch up to their artificially inflated prices.

It has paid off, and oil is rising rapidly in the recent days.

Williams continued, “The problem is that drivers pay more for VAT at the conclusion of every margin they take.” 

‘This means the Treasury’s coffers have been substantially boosted on the back of the retailers’ action. Ministers are urged to encourage retailers to do the right thing for customers. 

Gordon Balmer is the executive director at the Petrol Retailers Association. This association represents around 65% of UK forecourts.

‘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

The RAC reports that retailers had average margins of 12.5p per litre for diesel and petrol in December.

According to this report, drivers of cars who were on holiday during the month saw their pump prices fall towards the end. This is likely to mean that they have likely benefited from more than what these numbers suggest.

  01/12/2021 31/12/2021 There is always 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 retail fuel markets remain extremely competitive, supermarkets didn’t use artificially low fuel prices in order to attract shoppers into their stores during Christmas. 

“The cost of operating petrol stations increased all year. Electricity rose 19%, margins for fuel cards were greatly reduced, and national insurance was increasing. 

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 was also the lowest-priced diesel seller at 144.9p per Liter, ahead of Tesco (145.8p). 

At the end of December, motorway unleaded average prices were 160.55p, which is 15p higher than national averages.

Averagely, drivers filling up with diesel at motorway service stations after holidays with their family were charged 163.43p a liter.


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