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Price of petrol falls in September despite oil refinery fires in Saudi Arabia

Press release   •   Oct 03, 2019 00:01 BST

Despite fears the refinery fires in Saudi Arabia in the middle of September would lead to higher pump prices the cost of a litre of petrol fell by just under a penny (0.87p) last month – making for two consecutive monthly drops, data from RAC Fuel Watch* shows.

In fact the price of unleaded at 127.95p is still nearly 4p a litre too high and should be cut by retailers. Instead though, the saving in the wholesale price is not being passed on at the forecourt, with retailers potentially thinking drivers would just be grateful that prices have not shot up after the supply disruption.

The only part of the UK that appears to be charging a fair price for fuel is Northern Ireland. When comparing prices for both petrol and diesel there to the UK average prices there is a very clear difference. In Northern Ireland the average price of a litre of unleaded is 125.87p – 2p a litre cheaper than the UK equivalent. Diesel, which rose 0.35p to 132.07p, is also more than 2p a litre less in Northern Ireland. The UK forecourt price of diesel is also nearly 3p a litre too high.

RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said:

“Currently, the prices drivers pay for fuel in Northern Ireland are on average 2p a litre cheaper than the rest of the UK which means retailers in the rest of the UK are charging more than they should. If they can afford to charge less there, they can afford to elsewhere: this can only mean that drivers in the rest of the UK are being taken advantage of.

“We would very much like to hear retailers’ justification for this price differential. Northern Ireland is more often a cheaper place for petrol and diesel due to greater competition among retailers, but in the last two months we’ve seen this gap widen which can only mean drivers in the rest of the UK are losing out.”

At an average price of 127.95p a litre, UK petrol drivers are paying £70.37 (48p less than August) to fill up a 55-litre family car. In Northern Ireland the cost is £1.15 cheaper at £69.22. A tank of diesel is an average of £72.64 (up 19p on August) across the UK but £71.34 in Northern Ireland – £1.30 less.

The big four supermarkets – which lead the UK fuel market based on selling 45% of all petrol and diesel – were charging an average of 123.90p – down 1.21p on August – and 127.88p for diesel – up 0.22p. This means buying from a large supermarket is currently 4p cheaper for both petrol and diesel than the UK average.

Simon Williams added: “Generally, supermarket fuel tends to be 3p a litre cheaper than the UK average. We have on occasion seen some much bigger differences between the supermarket average and the UK average prices. If supermarket fuel is priced much lower than the UK average as it is now, this usually indicates independent retailers aren’t passing on enough of the savings in the wholesale price.

“This doesn’t mean there isn’t scope for the supermarkets to do more by lowering their prices more, it means that independent retailers simply are choosing not compete as much or simply aren’t able to for financial reasons.

“The outlook for drivers at the pumps is looking reasonable despite the refinery attacks in Saudi Arabia. Not only was the impact of the resulting drop in production lessened by Saudi’s state-owned oil company releasing crude reserves, fears of a global economic slowdown caused the oil price to reduce. If this continues, it should translate into lower pump prices for drivers in the UK.”

Notes to Editors

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About the RAC

First formed in 1897, the RAC has been looking after the needs of its members for more than 120 years.

Today it has 11m members and is one of the UK’s most progressive motoring organisations, providing services for both private and business motorists. Whether it's roadside assistanceinsurancebuying a used carvehicle inspections and checkslegal services or up-to-the-minute traffic and travel information – the RAC offers a solution for all motoring needs. The RAC is committed to making motoring easier, safer, more affordable and more enjoyable for drivers and road users.

The RAC supports the interests of its members and UK drivers at a national level. This includes voicing concerns about the increasing cost of motoring, particularly the price of fuel and the high level of tax levied on it, advancing levels of road safety, and supporting the needs of all drivers, from young to old.

The RAC’s annual Report on Motoring – first published in 1989 – is one of a kind and provides a clear insight into the concerns and issues facing today’s motorists.

For the very latest news on UK fuel prices, check RAC Fuel Watch. It provides a comprehensive guide to the latest UK unleaded petrol and diesel prices – both at the wholesale level and at the pump - and tracks these prices daily to help drivers check if the price they pay to fill up is a fair one.