Supermarket petrol and diesel price wars leaving drivers ‘livid’

Diesel drivers are being ‘ripped off’ says Fair Fuel UK

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Average UK petrol prices continue to fall this week, reaching 148.59p a litre on Wednesday, while diesel was down to 170.71p. Respectively, those are falls of 4.4p and 5.0p a litre compared to just before Christmas.

The last time pump prices were this low was in mid-February of last year for petrol and early March for diesel.

Last weekend, supermarket petrol in Ashton-under-Lyne was as much as 13p a litre cheaper (saving £7.15 a tank) than 10 miles up the road in Rochdale as a clutch of three superstores in close proximity went head-to-head on fuel, charging as little as 132.7p a litre. 

In the neighbouring town, the cheapest supermarket petrol was 145.7p. And it wasn’t a one-off.

Asda remains the cheapest major supermarket brand, selling petrol at an average of 144.5p and diesel at 166.43p, with prices falling around 5p per litre compared to last month.

Generally, BP is the most expensive, charging between two and three pence above the national average, with Sainsbury’s being the most expensive of the “Big 4”.

At a more local level, which is largely restricted to certain areas of the UK, even bigger price gap anomalies have emerged. 

Unlike the summer, where maverick individual independent retailers popped up randomly with ultra-low pump prices compared to what was trending in towns and cities, the supermarkets are doing something similar – but only in certain towns.

Essentially, the widespread pump price wars of pre-covid years have returned as isolated and localised superstore turf wars, where fighting for customers with offers in the aisles is no longer enough.

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This can be seen in Bishop Auckland, where prices are as low as 135.8p per litre of petrol, with the most expensive in the town being 138.9 at a Tesco.

In comparison, drivers 11 miles up the road in Durham are finding the cheapest petrol to be 144.9p at a BP filling station.

Luke Bosdet, the AA’s spokesperson on road fuel prices, said: “Discovering that supermarket petrol or diesel is £5 to £7 a tank more expensive than just 10 miles down the road is guaranteed to leave drivers livid. 

“It just doesn’t make sense, particularly when other essentials like bread, milk and eggs are pretty much the same price wherever you go.

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“Say, for instance, a supermarket lures you into their store with a voucher offering £6 off a £60 shopping bill. 

“To find out that that supermarket clawed back all that saving, and perhaps £1 on top of that, at the pump compared to a superstore in a neighbouring town will quite rightly lead to a howl of protest.”

Very rarely, southern towns will show glimpses of more competitive supermarket pump prices, such as around the Medway area, but not on the scale further north (Preston, Widnes, Belper, etc).

Looking ahead, wholesale price movements suggest that pump prices will level off soon and may go up afterwards, spurred on by oil returning to $85 (£68.79) a barrel. 

Supermarkets, because they tend to hold on to lower prices for longer when costs increase, may again become attractive to drivers for a while.

Mr Bosdet added that the reason prices aren’t going down is because the Government has not introduced a fuel price checker like in Northern Ireland.

The Consumer Council’s Fuel Price Checker helps force fuel rates down by promoting competition among supermarkets and major retailers.

The latest data from January 12 shows that prices in Northern Ireland are well below the current average of the rest of the UK.

In the county of Strabane, the average price of petrol is just 136.8p, with diesel drivers paying an average of 158.9p.

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