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Christmas set to be most expensive ever as drivers continue to be overcharged at the pumps

This Christmas is set to be the most expensive ever on the roads with petrol and diesel both at record highs for the festive period.

Petrol is currently being sold for an average of 152.96p a litre which is 7p more than it was on 22 December 2021 (145.66p). Diesel, however, is a shocking 27p more expensive on the nation’s forecourts than it was a year ago (148.95p) at 175.75p, which was previously the most expensive Christmas ever for drivers.

A tank of petrol for a family driving to see family and friends now costs nearly £4 more at £84 than it did last Christmas (£80). For those travelling in diesel cars it’s even worse with a fill-up now costing nearly £97 – almost £15 more than last year (£82).

But disturbingly, this Christmas should not be hurting drivers’ pockets as much as it is as the wholesale price of petrol has now fallen to just 106p a litre* – the same price it was this time last year. And even more worryingly, this year’s price includes the Government’s 5p fuel duty discount which was introduced in March to ease the pain of rising fuel prices caused by Russia invading Ukraine. The wholesale price of diesel has dropped to 126p* a litre which is only 14p more expensive than just before last Christmas (112p).

The RAC calculates that the average price of petrol should be around 138p – 15p cheaper than it actually is, and that diesel should be around 160p a litre – 13p cheaper than it is now.

RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said:

“With the cost-of-living crisis making this one of the toughest Christmases on record, it is even more galling to know drivers are being heartlessly overcharged for fuel making this the most expensive ever festive getaway on the roads.

“The big four supermarkets, which dominate UK fuel retailing, have robustly refused to significantly lower their forecourt prices to reflect what’s happened with the substantial reduction in the price of wholesale fuel that they are enjoying.

“We now have a bizarre situation where many smaller independent retailers are charging far less for their fuel than the supermarkets. The trouble is after years of the supermarkets being the cheapest place to fill up many drivers automatically assume this is still the case and may be losing out as a result.

“We urge the supermarkets to properly cut their petrol and diesel prices to give drivers the Christmas present they deserve. Sadly though, having seen a similar situation last year where the biggest retailers failed to pass on much lower wholesale costs, we’re not holding out much hope they will do the right thing this year. We suspect they’re just going to try to tough out all our calls for price cuts in the hope the price of oil will go back up in the new year.

“The only consolation for drivers is that both petrol and diesel have fallen a long way from their summer highs of 191.5p for unleaded and 199.09p for diesel.”

On the back of the report from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), and with the industry seeming to continue to profit from inflated fuel prices, UK Government Minister Grant Shapps wrote to fuel retailers on Thursday (22 December), stating:

"It is concerning to see that the CMA’s emerging findings point to retail fuel margins rising year on year over the past five years ahead of general inflation. In addition, their analysis has found evidence that on occasion the price of fuel at the pump has fallen more slowly than it rises following changes in the price of crude oil."

The Minister for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy continued:

"As a result, the CMA will continue to investigate the retail sector further, with a focus on the relationship between wholesale and retail fuel prices, factors driving local and regional variations in prices, and the role played by major supermarkets in the road fuel retail sector.

"The pressure on consumers, particularly during the festive period, is greater than it has been for a very long time. You will have seen recent reports in the media suggesting retailers, particularly supermarkets, are not passing on wholesale savings to motorists swiftly enough. This Government is committed to ensuring retailers are offering a fair deal at their forecourts. I therefore welcome the focus the CMA will be placing on the role of retailers and urge you all to engage fully, openly and transparently with the CMA to explain changes in pricing behaviour.

"I will be looking very closely at the CMA’s conclusions, in particular any recommendations they make regarding remedial action in the sector. Ahead of this, I encourage you to take any steps necessary to ensure savings are passed on to consumers. This Government will not hesitate to act to ensure competition is healthy and consumers get a fair deal on their fuel."

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