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Fuel retailers to be forced to share price change data within 30 minutes

Fuel retailers will be forced to share information on price changes within half an hour under Government plans to make it easier for drivers to find the cheapest petrol and diesel (Peter Byrne/PA)
Fuel retailers will be forced to share information on price changes within half an hour under Government plans to make it easier for drivers to find the cheapest petrol and diesel (Peter Byrne/PA)

Fuel retailers will be forced to share information on price changes within half an hour under Government plans to make it easier for drivers to find the cheapest petrol and diesel.

This freely available data will enable tech companies to develop new price comparison tools, the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) said.

These systems, part of a so-called PumpWatch scheme, are expected to be accessible on mobile apps, websites, online maps, journey planning tools and in-car devices.

The move, which is being consulted on, could save drivers 3p per litre on fuel by helping them find the lowest prices in their area, according to the DESNZ.

Government figures show the average price of a litre of petrol on January 8 was at its lowest level since October 2021, at 139.7p.

This has been attributed to a fall in oil prices.

Energy Security Secretary Claire Coutinho said: “Our work on competition and transparency is working. Drivers are now paying the lowest average price at the pump for two years.

“We are forcing retailers to share live information on their prices within 30 minutes of any change in price, helping drivers to find the best deal at the pump.

“This will put motorists back in the driving seat and bring much-needed competition back to the forecourts.”

Twelve major fuel retailers – including all four fuel-selling supermarkets – signed up to an interim voluntary scheme launched by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) last year to share daily prices.

The DESNZ plans would make data-sharing a legal requirement.

A similar scheme in Queensland, Australia, saw drivers save an average of 93 Australian dollars (£49) per year on fuel, the department said.

Last year, the CMA said that in 2022 UK motorists paid around £900 million in additional costs due to supermarkets failing to pass on savings from lower oil prices.

RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said: “This is a really important day as it should pave the way for fairer fuel pricing for everyone who drives.

“Sadly, there have been far too many occasions where drivers have lost out at the pumps when wholesale prices have fallen significantly and those reductions haven’t been passed on quickly enough or fully enough by retailers.

“We badly need to see competition in the wider market match that of Northern Ireland where fuel prices are consistently 5p cheaper.”

Pump prices are generally lower in Northern Ireland than the rest of the UK because of competition from forecourts in the Republic of Ireland.

AA president Edmund King said: “The Government’s proposal should stimulate fairer pricing through free market competition, and takes advantage of the latest information technology.

“It gives leeway to fuel retailers to price according to their circumstances but, by directing motoring consumers to where they can get their fuel at a better price, keeps competitive pressure on the trade.”

Howard Cox, the Reform UK candidate for London mayor and founder of fuel price campaign FairFuelUK, said: “Years of lobbying the Government seems to have paid off.

“I am delighted that a PumpWatch consumer pricing watchdog will roll out with teeth to protect UK’s millions of hard-pressed drivers from perennial profiteering by the fuel supply chain.”