Petrol stations accused of overcharging drivers by £2.50 per tank as prices hit three-year high

Filling stations are overcharging drivers by at least £2.50 per tank, a report claimed last night.

It said retailers had hiked the cost of petrol and diesel by more than 5p a litre since early May when wholesale costs have risen by only a fraction of a penny. Over the past three months pump prices have surged by roughly twice the wholesale rate.

This has handed retailers a £500million windfall, according to the research by FairFuel UK. Drivers are paying £2.50 extra for filling up a typical 50-litre tank.

The study also found massive differences in prices at forecourts only a few miles apart. One BP garage was charging 29p a litre more than another in the same chain in the same area.

Fuel prices are at their highest in three and a half years – making them the biggest factor in the rising cost of living.

Motoring groups say rural dwellers are worst affected by inflated fuel prices because the lack of competition means sellers can charge what they like.

Tory MP Robert Halfon said: ‘Yet again motorists face the great fuel price rip-off – greedy oil companies ratcheting up pump prices when the cost of oil goes up, but acting slower than a snail when oil prices go down. It is time oil companies stopped taking motorists for a ride.’

Although higher oil prices had been driving up the cost of fuel, crude prices hit a six-week low of $72.45 yesterday.

According to the FairFuel analysis, the wholesale cost of diesel, which includes the price of oil and taxes, stood at 120.5p a litre on May 4. By Friday last week it had barely moved to 120.8p a litre – an increase of just a quarter of a penny.

But over the same period the price at the pumps had risen from 126.8p a litre to 132.2p a litre. Over the past three months wholesale prices have risen by 5.4p and 4.5p for diesel and petrol.

But the prices at the pumps have soared by 9.5p and 9.4p – boosting retailers’ profits by around £500million, according to the report. Howard Cox of FairFuel said motorists were being ‘fleeced at the pumps’.

He added: ‘In Germany and France pump prices can fluctuate daily, even hourly. The cost of filling up in these countries accurately reflects oil and wholesale prices. Here in the UK motorists and businesses are exploited ruthlessly by greedy speculators and the fuel supply chain.’

Kirstene Hair, a Scottish Conservative MP, said: ‘It is unfair that retailers are increasing costs disproportionately for hard-working families, small businesses and the haulage industry. We need an independent price monitoring body, this will ensure households and businesses are no longer charged unfairly for fuel.’

The latest figures include cuts of up to 3p introduced last week by Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Asda.

Kirstene Hair, a Scottish Conservative MP, said: ‘It is unfair that retailers are increasing costs disproportionately for hard-working families’

They finally bowed to growing pressure to pass on a reduction in wholesale costs, which started to fall again on May 24.

The report revealed a postcode lottery in pump pricing. Within five miles of Birmingham, there is a 28p difference in the cost of petrol between the most expensive and least expensive forecourt, according to FairFuel.

Richard Burnett of the Road Haulage Association said: ‘The industry responsible for moving 98 per cent of the UK economy is being hit hard. Higher fuel prices have to be passed on and that means higher prices in the shops.’

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has vowed to launch a probe into fuel prices at motorway service stations.

The Petrol Retailers Association did not respond to requests for comment.