finance

Petrol companies have tripled profits as drivers say they ‘want to weep’ at sky-high prices


UK drivers face being “priced off the road” as forecourts continued to raise prices despite falling wholesale costs.

The RAC says the hikes are unjustifiable and retailers must cut pump prices to fairer levels.

The RAC says vulnerable customers could be forced off the road by high prices

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The RAC says vulnerable customers could be forced off the road by high prices

Despite wholesale petrol prices tumbling in November, retailers actually increased the price of a litre of petrol by 3.1p and diesel by 2.7p on average,

Prices have continued to increase since record highs set in April 2012 were exceeded last month.

The RAC believes the unjustified high cost of fuel is hurting drivers at the worst possible time with Christmas just around the corner.

This is adding to the unprecedented pressure on household incomes, especially among the less well-off.

Meanwhile, drivers are reporting that their commuting costs have rocketed, with several saying they’re struggling to afford to fill up.

One woman started a Mumsnet thread asking: am I being unreasonable to want to weep at fuel costs?

She said: “Filled my car up today and wanted to cry at the price of petrol. I never really cared about what petrol station was doing the best prices but I have really noticed it in the last few months, so it must be bad.”

Others were quick to respond saying the escalating prices were putting a massive strain on monthly budgets.

One said: “Completely agree! My £50 commute in petrol a week is now almost £90.”

Another added: “It’s scary how much. They’re making 19p profit / litre on petrol! Even though wholesale prices have dropped they’re taking their time to pass it on.”

And a third said: “Between petrol/gas/electric I’m really, really feeling the pinch more than usual. Not much left after paying for those plus groceries.”

Despite wholesale petrol prices tumbling 10p in November, the average cost of a litre of unleaded petrol ended the month at 147.28p.

It was a similar picture for diesel, with prices up to 150.64p by 30 November in spite of wholesale costs having fallen by 7p from the middle of the month. 

RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams estimated that retailers are making a “shocking” 19p profit on every litre of fuel they sell, more than three times the pre-pandemic figure of 6p.

Mr. Williams said: “Sadly, our data shows all too clearly that drivers are being taken for a ride by retailers at the moment.

“We can’t see any justification for the prices that are being charged at the pumps and are concerned that drivers on lower incomes who depend on their vehicles are being priced off the road altogether.

“The wholesale petrol price, which is what retailers pay to buy new supply, dropped by 10p from mid-November, so we can’t see how any increase – let alone a 3p one – was warranted.”

The automotive services company is urging forecourts and supermarkets to do the right thing and cut their prices as matter of urgency.

It says there is a clear argument that competition in fuel retailing isn’t working and is also calling for the government to get involved and ensure customers are paying a fair price.

Mr Williams concluded: “We urge the Government to intervene now. It’s a sad fact that the Chancellor’s fuel duty freeze last month, while welcome, simply wasn’t anywhere near enough to ease the burden now being placed on millions of households who have no choice but to use their vehicles.

“It might be better for the Government to ask the biggest retailers to explain why they’re charging such high prices for fuel when wholesale prices have dropped.”

How to keep fuel costs low

Here are some tips on how you can slash the cost of fuel:

Make your car more fuel-efficient. You can do this by keeping your tyres inflated, taking the roof rack off, emptying your car of clutter and turning off your air con when driving at lower speeds. Lighter cars use less fuel and properly pumped-up tyres can reduce consumption by up to three per cent.

Find the cheapest fuel prices. PetrolPrices.com and Confused.com allow you to search the prices of UK petrol stations. All you need to do is enter your postcode and how far you want to travel.

Drive more efficiently. Some ways to do this, include:

  • Accelerating gradually without over-revving
  • Always driving on the highest possible gear
  • If you can, allowing your car to slow down naturally as your brake is a money burner
  • Re-starting your car is expensive, if you can, keep moving
Martin Lewis reveals simple ways to save money on petrol and diesel

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