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2012 petrol averages 2.75p a litre dearer than 2011, diesel 3.5p more expensive
Average petrol prices across the UK are almost exactly back to where they started the year. However, two 10p-a-litre price swings, one in the spring and again in the autumn, have left drivers spending on average almost £1.50 a tank more for petrol and £1.75 a tank more for diesel throughout 2012, compared to 2011.
Mid-December’s AA Fuel Price Report finds petrol averaging 132.32p a litre in the UK, down 2.76p on mid-November’s UK average (135.08p). Diesel averages 140.38p a litre, a saving of 1.51p over the past month (141.89p). At the start of 2012, petrol averaged 132.25p a litre and diesel 140.56p.
Throughout 2012, the cost of petrol in the UK has averaged 136.40p a litre and diesel 142.48p.
Previous average pump prices across a year are:
In March, the difference in price for supermarket petrol in neighbouring towns reached a new high of 5p a litre, in particular Mansfield v New Ollerton / Newark, Dover v Canterbury, and Aylesbury v Milton Keynes.
On Monday, drivers in the New Ollerton/Newark area were once again paying 5p a litre more for supermarket petrol compared to 11 miles down the road in Mansfield – as were drivers in Dover compared to Canterbury 18 miles away. In Aylesbury, despite councillors complaining to their local supermarket, the price gap between the town and Milton Keynes had returned to 4p – 5p a litre on Monday.
After surging upwards for the second time this year, the wholesale price of petrol (+ biofuel) in the UK reached 54p a litre in early September. By early December, it had dropped back 7.5p which, with VAT, should have knocked 9p off the autumn pump price high of 140p a litre. Instead, average petrol prices now are down 7.7p a litre, leaving the average UK driver short-changed by at least 1p a litre.
A backlash against the way the fuel industry treats drivers manifested itself on 7 December, when the new EU Consumer Scoreboard showed UK consumers rating their petrol retailers second worst for choice in Europe. Of the 500 consumers interviewed in the UK, 14% gave petrol retailers a score of less than four out of 10 for choice. Only Italy was worse, with 17% slating choice among fuel stations (for choice, the EU survey scores low from 0-4, medium 5-7 and high 8-10).
Overall, the scoreboard gave ‘fuel for vehicles’ the third worst Market Performance Indicator for goods sold in the UK, slightly better than new cars and used cars. It also found that more fed-up British drivers are complaining to MPs, local politicians and other official bodies (charts attached).
Last year, less than 1% of UK consumers complaining about vehicle fuels took their grievance to an official level while a further 33% protested to the retailer. In 2012, 8% of unhappy drivers took their grievance to their MP or other official channel, while the proportion complaining directly to the petrol station rose to 39%.
A brief supermarket price skirmish during the last week of November reduced the UK’s petrol price by a substantial 1.3p a litre in five days. However, the petrol price gap between the cheapest and most expensive of the big four supermarkets has grown from an average of 2.5p last month to 3.25p now.
The AA hopes that the Office of Fair Trading, in its January report, understands what is going on and starts moving towards suggesting a solution. From our point of view, wholesale price transparency is the crucial first step
Edmund King, AA president
“The fact that petrol prices are back to where they were at the beginning of the year may bring some seasonal festive cheer but over the last year petrol prices have been 2.75p more expensive than the previous year.
“Supermarkets generally dictate the cost of fuel in towns, with other retailers setting theirs accordingly and creating a localised price jam. Petrol in towns with less competitive supermarkets is as much as 5p more expensive than neighbouring communities. It is these £1.50, £2 or £2.50-a-tank surcharges for petrol across whole towns that have triggered such fierce criticism of the UK’s fuel retailer ‘choice’ in the EU Consumer Scoreboard survey,” says Edmund King, the AA’s president.
“The Chancellor spared drivers, families and businesses a £2-a-tank hike in fuel duty with VAT on 5 December. However, for the most part, the fuel industry has not shown the same generous spirit towards car-dependent consumers and businesses, but has hidden behind the smokescreen of the scheduled fuel duty increases.
“Clearly, the EU survey shows that UK consumers see past this fig leaf of an excuse but are powerless to do anything about it. The AA hopes that the Office of Fair Trading, in its January report, understands what is going on and starts moving towards suggesting a solution. From our point of view, wholesale price transparency is the crucial first step.”