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Continual rises in fuel prices causing “misery at the pumps”

New RAC and CMA data shows rises in fuel prices and retailer margins since the beginning of the year

New government data reveals that UK supermarket fuel price margins have almost doubled since 2017, with the cost of petrol per litre now up 6p since the start of 2024.

Drivers’ pennies have been pinched hard at the pump for some time and there appears to be no letup in the fuel price rises despite reports that the wider UK cost-of-living crisis may be easing. A new report by the RAC shows that the price of petrol rose 2p in March alone to £1.47 per litre. Thus, the average cost to fill a 55-litre fuel tank is now £80.56 – roughly £1 more than last month and over £3 dearer than in December 2023.

The cost of diesel is also rising; given that the average price currently sits around £1.56 per litre, brimming a 55-litre tank with diesel will now set drivers back £85.79 – 72p more than this time last month.

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Of course, both petrol and diesel prices are still down from the highs of £1.57 and £1.63 pence per litre at the end of September 2023, but other rising costs such as the recent increase in VED (road tax) at the start of April mean drivers are taking the financial strain more than ever.

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While motorists are feeling the pressure, a study by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) recently uncovered that supermarket fuel price margins have risen from 4% in 2017, all the way to 7.8% in 2023. That’s not all, as the report also stated that dedicated fuel stations widened their margins as well, increasing from 6.4% in 2017, all the way to 9.1% in 2023.

Senior Director of Markets at the CMA, Dan Turnbull, called for government action, saying: “[The] report reinforces the need for Pumpwatch and statutory powers to be in place as soon as possible, to ensure competition is effective in this market and to get a better deal for UK drivers.”

However, due to rising wholesale petrol prices, the RAC says retailers have now had to slash profit margins since the start of March from 10.5p per litre to just 8p. Nevertheless, the margin for diesel is up by 1p to 11p per litre and prices continue to rise across the board – even with the government’s freeze on the 5p cut to fuel duty, which was supposedly designed to “put more money in the pockets of motorists”.

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In response to the latest figures, RAC spokesperson, Simon Williams, said: “The rising cost of oil, combined with the pound still only being worth a meagre $1.3, has led to another month of misery at the pumps”.

“On a more positive note, it’s good to see the average retailer margin on petrol come down... While the cause is most likely to be the increase in the wholesale price of petrol, it could also be due to the CMA raising concerns about higher retailer margins”.

Alongside the cut to fuel duty, the UK government is said to be developing Pumpwatch: a new mobile app that’s being designed to provide live petrol pricing data to users. The data will be refreshed every 30 minutes to enable drivers to find the cheapest fuel within the vicinity.

The Government claims Pumpwatch will not only “empower” motorists, but should also stimulate competition within the sector. Auto Express asked the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero whether the app will arrive with users before the end of 2024, however, we are yet to receive a response.

Click here to find out the best way to currently find the cheapest petrol and diesel near you...

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Consumer reporter

Tom is Auto Express' Consumer reporter, meaning he spends his time investigating the stories that matter to all motorists - enthusiasts or otherwise. An ex-BBC journalist and Multimedia Journalism graduate, Tom previously wrote for partner sites Carbuyer and DrivingElectric and you may also spot him throwing away his dignity by filming videos for the Auto Express social media channels.

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