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CMA proposes real-time fuel price finder

CMA – the Competition and Markets Authority – has recommended that the Government legislate for a real-time fuel price finder, enabling riders and drivers to find the cheapest petrol locally, without travelling to find out. It would probably work in the same way as an airbnb listing, with a map showing the location and fuel price of all nearby filling stations, which would be updated in real time.

Why now? The CMA’s just-published study – the snappily titled Final Report on the Supply of Road Fuel in the United Kingdom – has revealed that supermarkets, traditionally the source of the cheapest petrol and diesel, have been raising prices to increase profit margins or failing to pass lower prices on to customers.

It’s a technique the report names ‘rocket and feather.’ When the wholesale price increases, supermarkets may hike their prices immediately, even if the fuel in their tanks was paid for at the old wholesale price. If the wholesale price falls (as has happened recently), Asda, Tesco et al are far slower to react, not passing lower prices on to the customer.

Behind all this is the supermarkets’ increasing stranglehold on the UK petrol/diesel market, as the number of independent filling stations has fallen. A total of nearly 40,000 in the 1950s plummeted to just over 13,000 in 2000 and 8400 in 2020. That means less competition, and an opportunity for supermarkets to keep prices up.

It remains to be seen whether the Government will act on the CMA’s recommendation.

Jim Freeman, Chair of the BMF, said: “ Interesting idea, although anybody who’s surprised that supermarkets maximise their profits on fuel is wearing blinkers. I’d be even happier if supermarkets never again discriminate against riders. They have a track record of making riders remove helmets, pre pay and so on. The BMF have had to intervene a number of times, over the years.”

Written by Peter Henshaw

Top image courtesy of Elastic Compute Farm – Pixabay