Drivers in Britain will be able to compare fuel prices between stations more easily and a new regulator will be set up to monitor the market after an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority.

The CMA said consumers had paid around £900 million ($1.14 billion) more for gasoline in forecourts operated by the UK’s biggest supermarkets last year, due to weakened competition.

Retailers should share up-to-date pricing data in an easily-accessible format so that drivers can use their satnavs or other apps to locate the best deals, the CMA said in a report published Monday. The regulator found that “competition is not working well” in the market and greater transparency is needed to bring down prices.

Retailers faced a backlash last year when motoring groups representing 40% of the population accused them of inflating gasoline prices. Smaller, independently-owned petrol stations were more likely to offer fair prices, the AA and RAC drivers’ organizations said.

Supermarkets have increased their margins on gasoline by about 6 pence per liter between 2019 and 2022, according to the CMA. Still, there is no evidence of “cartel behavior.”

The government will consult on the proposed new petrol regulator, a spokesman for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Monday. The watchdog will “closely monitor the UK road fuel market, scrutinize prices and alert the government if further intervention is needed in the market,” spokesman Max Blain said.

Margins

Asda and Morrisons, which have both come under private ownership, particularly raised prices since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine drove up inflation, the CMA said. Asda’s fuel margin target in 2023 was more than three times what it had been for 2019, while Morrisons doubled its margin target in the same period, according to the CMA. Tesco Plc and J Sainsbury Plc also raised prices in step, the report found.

sda was fined £60,000 for failing to provide information to the CMA “in a timely manner.” The company, which is owned by the billionaire Issa brothers and buyout firm TDR Capital, recently bought EG Group’s UK and Ireland gas stations, which has the same ownership.

A spokesperson for Asda said the fine was due to “alleged technical breaches” and that the CMA recognized that it was often the first supermarket to cut prices, leading rivals to follow suit. A representative for Morrisons said margins had been squeezed by energy, property and labor costs, and that any increase in profits had been used to limit prices of goods in its stores.

Extracted in full from: UK Petrol, Diesel Prices: Fuel Watchdog to Monitor Pump Prices After Probe – Bloomberg

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