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Diesel car drivers suffer as UK boasts most expensive pump prices in Europe

Diesel price rises are the result of “unreasonably high” retailer margins, says RAC, with new laws introduced to bolster scrutiny

Diesel pump

The UK boasts the “dubious” honour of having the most expensive diesel prices in Europe, says the RAC, with average prices now reaching £1.55 per litre.

You’ve probably heard that fuel prices have been rising steeply since the beginning of this year, with petrol having risen by as much as 10 pence per litre since January. However, things are just as bad for diesel car drivers as the cost of using the black pump also rose by 10p between the beginning January and the start of May. 

In fact, the average price of diesel in the UK is now five pence more than the second-most expensive country for diesel in Europe: Belgium. This is the equivalent of an extra £2.75 per fill up for the average 55-litre fuel tank and is in spite of the fact that the UK government recently extended its 5p cut to fuel duty, which has been in place since March 2022.

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“Having the most expensive diesel in Europe despite the current 5p duty cut is a very dubious honour,” said the RAC’s head of policy, Simon Williams. “We can see no good reason why retailers in Great Britain aren’t cutting their prices at the pumps.

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“The average price of a litre of diesel should really be down to around the £1.45 level if retailers were charging fairer prices. The margin on petrol is also, in our view, unreasonably high”.

So what’s causing these sky-high prices? Well, the RAC puts this down to elevated retailer margins, which currently sit at 18p per litre for diesel – 10 pence more than the long-term average of 8p.

Since the RAC blasted retailers as “greedy” earlier in May, prices have since slowly started to come down. However, margins remain high, with petrol and diesel still costing, on average, 6p and 10p cheaper in Northern Ireland – where there’s greater competition from cheaper fuel in the Republic of Ireland – than in the rest of the UK. That means Northern Irish diesel drivers are currently paying £5.50 less on average per tank than their British counterparts.

There is some light at the end of the tunnel, though, as the new Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Act became law last Friday, which paves the way for greater scrutiny by the Competition and Markets Authority in order to maintain fair prices for consumers. 

That’s not to mention PumpWatch: the government’s forthcoming smartphone app which aims to provide live and local fuel pricing data to users, enabling them to search for the best price. This has previously been earmarked for a launch before the end of 2024, although the Department for Transport remained quiet when we recently asked them whether the app’s release is still on target.

Click here for our list of the best diesel cars...

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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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