Plans to stop 'rip-off retailers' with fuel monitor after motorists charged extra £900m by supermarkets

4 July 2023, 00:06 | Updated: 4 July 2023, 00:40

Supermarkets slammed for petrol prices
Supermarkets slammed for petrol prices. Picture: RAC Foundation/Getty/Alamy
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

The government is planning to make fuel retailers publish their live prices under new plans to stop them from overcharging motorists.

Supermarkets were accused of profiteering at the expense of motorists last year in a damning report that says they made an extra 6p profit per litre by keeping prices high.

Under proposed government plans, motorists will be able to compare prices between different retailers online so they can go for the cheapest option.

A law change will be required in order to make sure fuel retailers, including supermarkets, share their live prices.

The government also said a fuel oversight body will be set up to assess prices on a regular basis, the BBC reports.

"We'll shine a light on rip-off retailers to drive down prices and make sure they're held to account by putting into law new powers to increase transparency," Energy and net zero secretary Grant Shapps said.

Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero
Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero. Picture: Getty
Pump prices over time, according to the RAC
Pump prices over time, according to the RAC. Picture: RAC

It comes after a recommendation from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to the Government to introduce legislation, including by creating a 'pump watch' scheme to show local prices on sat navs and phone apps.

The CMA found that the average supermarket fuel margins rose by 6p per litre between 2019 and 2022. An increase in margins on diesel across all fuel retailers cost drivers an extra 13p per litre during the first five months of this year alone.

Asda has also been fined £60,000 by the CMA for failing to provide relevant information in a timely manner, the regulator revealed.

Read More: Drivers paid an extra 6p a litre for fuel after supermarkets kept prices high, damning report finds

It determined that competition has "weakened" as Asda and Morrisons decided to increase the amount of money it makes on fuel and Sainsbury's and Tesco have priced by comparison to local competitors rather than responding to cost movements in the market.

There was no evidence to suggest that there has been "cartel behaviour"and there are no plans to open an enforcement case against supermarkets, the regulator said.

Motorists have been paying 6p a litre more due to supermarkets keeping prices artificially high
Motorists have been paying 6p a litre more due to supermarkets keeping prices artificially high. Picture: Alamy

Read More: Speak to your lender: Minister’s message to Brits struggling with mortgages as he says inflation will come down

Read More: Fury as Jeremy Clarkson's 'overpriced' Diddly Squat farm shop attracts petrolheads to quiet village

CMA chief executive Sarah Cardell said: "Competition at the pump is not working as well as it should be and something needs to change swiftly to address this.

"Drivers buying fuel at supermarkets in 2022 have paid around 6p per litre more than they would have done otherwise due to the four major supermarkets increasing their margins.

"This will have had a greater impact on vulnerable people, particularly those in areas with less choice of fuel stations.'We need to reignite competition among fuel retailers."

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "It is absolutely not right that drivers aren't getting the right fair deal for fuel and have in some circumstances been overcharged by retailers."

Asda petrol pump
Asda petrol pump. Picture: Getty

An Asda spokesperson said: "Despite record inflation, we have carefully managed our business to ensure Asda was the cheapest traditional supermarket for both groceries and fuel throughout the period reviewed by the CMA and this position is unchanged.

"The penalty notices relate to two individual alleged technical breaches in the way information was shared with the CMA over a 12-month period, during which time a significant number of documents were shared with the CMA to aid their study and we engaged fulsomely with their enquiries."

According to the RAC the average cost of filling up with petrol in the UK is 143.86p per litre, and diesel 145.54p.That is down from a peak of 191.43p for petrol and 199.07p for diesel in July last year as the war in Ukraine and other factors causes a surge in prices.

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