December fuel price update

Scrooge fuel retailers siphon off Christmas spirit

18 December 2009

Scrooge fuel retailers siphon off Christmas spirit

Average UK petrol prices, which last week rose to a level never seen before at this time of year, have started to fall, the mid-monthly AA Fuel Price Report for December reveals.

However, many retailers have delayed passing on a drop in wholesale prices and major towns in the South are paying up to £2.50 a tank more for the cheapest petrol compared to others in the region.

comparison of wholesale and pump prices (before duty/vat) The average price of petrol has fallen 0.42p from 108.74p per litre in mid November to 108.32p now. This compares with a nearly 2p-a-litre drop in petrol wholesale prices since the start of the month. Diesel prices have dropped slightly, from 110.02p to 109.86. However, rising petrol prices this autumn pushed November's inflation higher than expected to 1.9%.

Last weekend's 2-3p drop by Asda started a price battle in areas around its fuel stations but for other areas it has so far turned into a phoney war as other supermarkets decided to compete only where they have to. This is particularly true in the South where the cheapest retailers in towns where Asda sells fuel have matched their 103.9p petrol price, such as Reading and Canterbury. Elsewhere, the cheapest fuel is 4-5p more expensive1.

Petrol wholesale prices reached around 33p a litre at the end of October, had fallen to 32p by mid November and 31.5p by the beginning of December. Average petrol pump prices, instead of reflecting the fall, rose from 105.30 on 1 October to a peak of 108.99 on 7 December.

Comment

"Up until now, fuel retailers have been largely blameless for higher fuel prices – leaving that dubious honour to government fuel duty and stock market speculators. But this sting in the tail of 2009 is clearly unacceptable when set against a track of gradually falling wholesale prices before last week's plunge," says Edmund King, the AA's president.

"Drivers can't expect to pay 103.9p a litre for petrol in every town, but being charged as much as 5p a litre more at the cheapest outlets in large towns well served by supermarkets is a rip-off. Perhaps worse, many high street shops are discounting like mad to grab a share of this Christmas' trade and they will be angry to find out that potential consumer spending is being siphoned off by over-priced petrol."

Regionally, petrol prices divide up into three clear areas: the North and Scotland averaging around 107.5p a litre, the Midlands at 108.3p, and the South and London at around 109p. Diesel is most expensive in Northern Ireland, averaging 110.6p a litre, with the North West and Yorkshire/Humberside cheapest at 109.00.

View the full AA Fuel Price Report »

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1Cheapest petrol prices in Southern England (15/12/09):
Berkshire/Hampshire - Reading (with Asda) 103.9p, Bracknell 107.9, Basingstoke 107.9
Kent - Canterbury (with Asda) 103.9, Maidstone 107.9
Surrey/Sussex – Guildford 108.9, Redhill/Reigate 107.9, Horsham 107.9, Crawley 107.9

 

18 December 2009
(Price data provided by Experian Catalist)