Supermarkets ‘refusing’ to pass on lower fuel prices to drivers, RAC says

RAC A customer fuels her car with unleaded petrol at a Morrisons supermarket in Coalville, central England, October 15, 2008. Supermarket chain Morrisons have cut the price of petrol on their forecourts to below £1 ($1.744) for the first time since December last year.   REUTERS/Darren Staples   (BRITAIN)
RAC: Petrol at big four supermarkets now only 1.5p cheaper than the UK average. Photo: Darren Staples/Reuters

The big four supermarkets have been accused of refusing to pass on fuel savings to drivers despite petrol prices falling in September.

The average price of petrol fell by nearly 7p a litre (6.69p) to 162.89p last month – the sixth biggest monthly drop since 2000 – saving drivers more than £3.50 a tank. However, RAC said drivers should have seen a further 10p reduction had major retailers not upped their margins.

A 55-litre petrol fill-up has now dropped below the £90 mark for the first time since the start of May. This means that since unleaded peaked on 3 July at 191.53p almost 29p (28.64p) has come off a litre, a saving of nearly £16 on a full tank (£15.75).

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A litre of diesel also reduced in September but only by 3.5p a litre, finishing the month at 180.16p. This is 19p cheaper than its all-time high price of 199.09p recorded on 25 June leading to the cost of tank falling £10 (£10.41) to under £100 (£99.09) – something drivers haven’t seen since late May.

RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said: “Despite September seeing the sixth biggest ever drop in the price of petrol drivers really should have seen a far bigger drop as the wholesale price of delivered petrol was around 120p for the whole month. This means forecourts across the country should have been displaying prices around 152p given the long-term margin on unleaded is 7p a litre.”

The average price of unleaded at the big four supermarkets also fell nearly 7p (6.6p) a litre to 161.30p, but unusually this is only 1.5p lower than the UK average – normally it’s around 3.5p cheaper. Supermarket diesel, however, only came down 1.4p to 178.56p which is 2p less than the UK average drop of 3.58p – diesel is also normally 3.5p cheaper at one of the big supermarkets.

“In stark contrast to this RAC Fuel Watch data has shown margins to be around 17p a litre – a huge 10p more than normal. And the average price of petrol at the big four supermarkets is only 1.5p lower than the UK average – less than half what it usually is which points heavily to them not playing fair with drivers.

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“This is backed up by the fact that Morrisons, which was charging an average of 162p a litre for petrol at the end of September, is currently running a 5p a litre off promotion for customers spending £40 in store. This type of promotion tends only to be seen when supermarkets are benefitting from lower wholesale prices.

RAC said that there are several smaller forecourts which are now selling fuel much cheaper than the supermarkets.

“We would urge everyone to shop around for the best deals rather than simply assuming the supermarkets are the lowest because they have been in the past,” Williams said.

Watch: Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury's are failing to reduce petrol prices