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Fuel pump costs hit a four year low during lockdown but experts have found road users were still paying more so retailers could secure extra income. Which? analysis has discovered that instead of passing on savings to motorists, sellers increased their own profit margins by up to 80 percent to profiteer from the crisis.
Analysis has revealed costs hovered between £1.02 and £1.04 at supermarkets across the UK in March and April before dropping below £1 across many stores in May.
But despite these savings, the average retail margins had jumped considerably from 10p a litre to nearly 18p a lire as lockdown restrictions were imposed.
Across the same week in 2019 the margin was just 8p per litre and just 5p back in April 2019.
Which? says the major increase may have been necessary for smaller providers but warned major retailers may have made millions of pounds worth of savings in lockdown.
Harry Rose, Editor of Which? Said there was “no excuse” for some large retailers to keep their savings.
He said wholesale reductions must be passed on to customers for them to be charged fairly at the pumps.
Mr Rose said: “While there may have been fair cause for some fuel sellers to increase retail margins in order to survive lockdown, there really is no excuse for some larger retailers to be keeping savings for themselves during the pandemic.
“For customers to be charged fairly at the pumps wholesale savings must be passed on.
“If you want to save money on fuel, buy an economical car and fill it up at a supermarket.
“Although if you have a local and convenient garage that you like using, do continue to give it your support.”
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Which? found that many supermarkets decide to pass on savings made due to falling wholesale prices through money off vouchers instead of simply lowering prices.
A Which? Study found that nearly half of respondents say they use supermarket vouchers to reduce fuel costs while filling up.
However this was attacked by Which? Who says minimum spend requirements make the coupons not as good as they may seem.
This is because those who cannot afford the minimum spend or do not want to use a coupon will miss out on deserved savings.
Howard Cox, founder of FairFuelUK has called for the implementation of a new “PumpWatch” scheme to keep an eye on prices.
He claimed UK drivers were being used as “politically and commercial cash cows” as drivers were “fleeced” by fuel companies.
Mr Cox said: “UK drivers, even now the world’s highest taxed, have been political and commercial cash cows for far too long.”
“We already pay to Number Eleven £1bn per week in tax on our motorbikes, cars, vans, and trucks. That’s nearly 7p in tax for every mile travelled.
“And yet the greedy unchecked speculators, wholesalers and oil companies are allowed to freely fleece us and the economy even more.”
The consumer watchdog says the pandemic has highlighted serious issues with uncapped margins being set by retailers and a lack of a regulator to monitor changes.
Which? analysis has also revealed petrol was generally cheaper in towns and cities than rural locations.
They also found supermarket fuel forecourts in any location are usually cheaper than oil company owned petrol stations usually found in cities.
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