Fuel prices at record Christmas high as RAC blames ‘heartless’ supermarkets

Motorists caught out by ‘bizarre’ higher charges at discounters

Alastair Jamieson
Thursday 22 December 2022 00:12 GMT
Related video: Autumn Budget: Key points from chancellor's statement

Drivers are being hit by record Christmas and New Year fuel prices, new analysis shows, as motoring organisations blame supermarkets for not passing on savings.

The RAC said consumers are being “heartlessly overcharged” as the average price per litre of petrol stands at around 153p, with diesel at 176p.

It comes after prime minister Rishi Sunak refused to rule out a 12p-per-litre hike in fuel duty in Jeremy Hunt’s Budget next March.

Compared with the days leading up to Christmas 2021 – which was previously the most expensive period on record for drivers – current prices are 7p higher for petrol and 27p more for diesel.

Millions of motorists embarking on journeys this week to spend the festive period with loved ones are paying £20 more to fill a typical 55-litre family car with petrol, and £31 more to fill up with diesel, than two years ago.

The RAC claims that drivers should not be feeling this much pain at the pumps, given that the wholesale price of petrol is the same as 12 months ago while diesel is just 14p more per litre.

The organisation also notes that the government’s 5p-per-litre cut in fuel duty introduced in March remains in place, and believes that the average prices per litre of petrol and diesel should be cut by around 15p and 13p respectively.

RAC fuel spokesperson 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.”

He called on supermarkets to “give drivers the Christmas present they deserve” by cutting fuel prices.

“We now have a bizarre situation where many smaller independent retailers are charging far less for their fuel than the supermarkets,” added Mr Williams. “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.”

Average fuel prices reached record highs of 192p per litre for petrol and 199p per litre for diesel in July, caused in part by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

A 23 per cent increase in fuel duty is pencilled in for March 2023, but chancellors have repeatedly frozen the levy in past Budgets. Mr Sunak was asked about further postponement this week, but did not rule out implementing the full rise.

“Tax decisions are those that are made by the chancellor in fiscal statements, and that’s the way it should be,” he told a parliamentary committee.

At the time of Mr Hunt’s autumn statement in November, the Office for Budget Responsibility said a “planned 23 per cent increase” in fuel duty in March would add around 12p per litre to pump prices.

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