Fuel retailers forced to share price changes within 30 minutes under Pumpwatch plan

Fuel retailers will be forced to quickly share price changes under government plans to ensure pump costs are fair.

The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) said its Pumpwatch proposals could save customers 3p per litre.

Under the scheme, now out for consultation, forecourts would have to enter prices within 30 minutes of a change to enable drivers to easily access the cheapest petrol and diesel.

The move builds on a voluntary price monitoring scheme that followed a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) fuel market investigation last year.

It found drivers were overcharged by £900m in 2022 due to supermarkets failing to pass on cuts from falling oil prices.

The government said the latest plans did not extend to the creation of a single price comparison app for motorists to get local price information.

Instead, the data would be made available to online platforms including map providers, motoring organisations and journey planning tools.

The scheme would make data sharing a legal requirement and apply across the UK, feeding in to an existing transparency service in Northern Ireland.

The Pumpwatch proposals were announced amid claims drivers continue to be overcharged due to disparities between average pump prices and wholesale costs.

While average costs are down to levels last seen in October 2021, the RAC said last week that wholesale data showed the cost of petrol was still low enough to merit "further reductions" at the pumps.

"Retailer margins remain far higher than normal, particularly at the supermarkets, where RAC data shows an average of 10p a litre is being taken on unleaded compared to 3.5p in 2019."

Energy Security Secretary Claire Coutinho said: "Our work on competition and transparency is working. Drivers are now paying the lowest average price at the pump for two years.

"We are forcing retailers to share live information on their prices within 30 minutes of any change in price, helping drivers to find the best deal at the pump.

"This will put motorists back in the driving seat and bring much-needed competition back to the forecourts."

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AA president Edmund King said of the scheme: "The government's proposal should stimulate fairer pricing through free market competition, and takes advantage of the latest information technology.

"It gives leeway to fuel retailers to price according to their circumstances but, by directing motoring consumers to where they can get their fuel at a better price, keeps competitive pressure on the trade."

The British Retail Consortium, which represents supermarkets, had no comment on the plans.

However Gordon Balmer, executive director of the industry body for independent fuel providers, the Petrol Retailers' Association, said: "The PRA has been actively engaged in collaborative efforts with the DESNZ and the CMA to enhance fuel price transparency.

"PRA members operate in a highly competitive market on razor-thin margins. I am pleased to see the government's release of the road fuel transparency consultation, and we will continue to support them as they develop their final scheme.

"It is important that motorists have the ability to shop around and find the best deals available to them.

"The PRA will be responding to this consultation to ensure that the final fuel price transparency scheme is reliable and easy for both consumers and retailers to use."