Supermarkets forced to publish live fuel prices – BBC News

  • By Daniel Thomas
  • Business journalist, BBC News

image source, Getty’s image

Supermarkets and other fuel retailers will be forced to publish live prices under the new scheme aimed at stopping overfilling, the government said.

It comes after Britons were found to have paid an extra 6p per liter for fuel at supermarkets last year as weak competition led them to charge more.

Under the scheme, drivers will be able to compare current prices online so they can find the cheapest option.

Driving groups say the idea, used elsewhere in Europe, is too late.

Energy Security Secretary Grant Shapps said he would change the law to force retailers to share this information.

A new “fuel monitoring” regulatory body will also be created to check prices on an ongoing basis.

“We will highlight rip-off retailers for lowering their prices and ensure they are held to account by enacting new powers laws to increase transparency,” said Shapps.

Gasoline and diesel prices soared to record highs immediately after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but have fallen significantly since then.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has been investigating the UK fuel market following concerns that wholesale price cuts are not being passed on to consumers.

According to the watchdog, supermarkets are usually the cheapest place for fuel but competition is “not doing as it should”.

  • the average annual supermarket margin on fuel has increased by 6p per liter between 2019 and 2022 – the equivalent of £900m in surcharges for drivers
  • The fuel margins that Morrisons and Asda are targeting for 2023 have doubled and tripled respectively since 2019
  • Sainsbury’s and Tesco followed suit and increased their prices, indicating competition had “weakened”
  • increased margins on diesel at all retailers have a surcharge driver of 13p per liter from January 2023 to the end of May 2023

CMA boss Sarah Cardell told the BBC: “We’ve seen retail margins improve over the last couple of years. And that means riders are paying more at the pump than if the competition did really well.”

RAC spokesman Simon Williams said the extra costs to consumers were “absolutely staggering in a cost of living crisis and confirms what we’ve been saying for years that supermarkets don’t treat drivers fairly at the pump”.

Asda – which was separately fined £60,000 by the CMA for failing to provide timely information to an investigation – says it is still the cheapest traditional supermarket for fuel.

Morrisons said its prices were “incredibly competitive”, while Tesco said it was committed to providing “amazing value”.

All welcomed the idea of ​​a price transparency scheme, which already has successful examples and is said to bring down prices in Northern Ireland.

The government says that under its new initiative, drivers will be able to access station-by-station fuel prices directly on their mobile or satnav.

Currently, retailers only provide price information at gas stations themselves, making it difficult to compare rates, although several websites have attempted to compile this data.

AA says it has been calling for this type of price tracking since at least 2012, when it first investigated similar schemes in Austria and Denmark.

“Unfortunately, it took more than 15 years for governments and competition watchdogs to recognize this and do something about it,” said spokesman Luke Bodset.

Nevertheless, he said access to immediate prices would be a “big leap forward” and should be there by the end of the year.

“Drivers will be attracted to cheaper gas stations and that will put pressure on others to lower their prices, thereby stimulating a level of competition that has been lost over the last three years.”

On Monday, the price of unleaded gasoline averaged 143.86p per liter while that of diesel was 145.54p, according to RAC data.

That’s a sharp drop from record highs seen last July, but still above pre-pandemic trends.

The CMA is also investigating complaints that supermarkets are not passing on food price reductions to consumers.

How to save money on gas and diesel

  • Watch your speed: RAC says 45-50mph is the most efficient speed to drive for fuel efficiency
  • Turn off the air conditioner: It takes extra energy to start a car’s A/C system and turning it on can increase fuel consumption by up to 10%, according to AA
  • Check your tire pressure: Underinflated tires will consume more gas. Check your pressure regularly, especially before long journeys

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