Live local fuel prices coming to your sat-nav or smartphone

The Government is consulting on compulsory fuel price ‘live updates’, making it easy for drivers to shop for the cheapest fuel

Fuel station

The Government has published a proposal that will force fuel retailers to publish their current prices for petrol and diesel, updating the information ‘live’ online within 30 minutes of any price changes.

The info will be collected by a body appointed by the Government, in a format that’s shareable via car sat-nav systems, smartphone apps or websites, making it possible for drivers to instantly identify the cheapest fuel prices in their locality, or even if they’re planning a longer trip to unfamiliar areas.

The announcement by the department for energy security and net zero is the next step in the Government’s response to last year’s report by UK competition watchdog the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). The CMA calculated that profiteering by supermarkets during the oil crisis sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 poured an extra £900 million into supermarket coffers that year alone. While there was no breach of law, the big four supermarkets were judged to have failed to have acted competitively by collectively choosing to hike margins by an average of 6p instead of fighting each other for drivers’ custom.

“This freely available data will enable tech companies to develop new ways for the UK’s 41.2 million drivers to search for the cheapest fuel while on-the-go - via everyday mobile apps, online mapping platforms, journey planning tools, price comparison websites and in-car devices,” a statement from the department says, adding that a similar scheme implemented in Queensland, Australia saw drivers save an average of £48 ($93 Aus) per year, by making it easier for them to shop around for fuel.

While the Government seeks industry feedback on its latest proposal, twelve of the largest fuel retailers - including all four of the major supermarkets - are already signed-up to a voluntary scheme sharing daily prices.

“Our work on competition and transparency is working. Drivers are now paying the lowest average price at the pump for two years,” says energy security secretary Claire Coutinho. “Forcing retailers to share live information on their prices within 30 minutes of any change in price will put motorists back in the driving seat and bring much-needed competition back to the forecourts.”

Founder of the FairFuelUK campaign Howard Cox has also welcomed the developments, pointing out that profit per litre for petrol and diesel has increased massively since before the Covid pandemic. 

“I am delighted that a PumpWatch consumer pricing watchdog will roll out with teeth to protect the UK’s millions of hard-pressed drivers from perennial profiteering by the fuel supply chain at the pumps,” he says.

AA spokesman Edmund King has also warmly welcomed the new government initiative: “The brazen price disparity of sometimes 10p a litre or more between neighbouring towns had to end. Pumping up profits by hanging on to the savings from lower fuel costs while consumers, businesses and inflation were denied the relief was quite simply unforgivable,” he said. 

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

Current affairs and features editor

Chris covers all aspects of motoring life for Auto Express. Over a long career he has contributed news and car reviews to brands such as Autocar, WhatCar?, PistonHeads, Goodwood and The Motor Trader.

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