Consumers have good reason to feel angered by the price of fuel.
Along with energy bills, the cost of petrol and diesel has increased enormously in recent years – putting many household budgets under severe strain.
And this has landed the UK retail road fuels sector, which is estimated to be worth around £32bn, in the spotlight once again.
Research by the AA has shown petrol prices rose by 38 per cent between June 2007 and June 2012, and diesel prices by 43 per cent over the same period.
Concerns about the situation are increasingly widespread; from customers, consumer groups, charities, politicians and businesses.
So now the government’s Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has decided to launch an enquiry to determine once and for all if there are problems with competition in the industry.
It has asked industry, motoring and consumer bodies to submit information over the next six weeks and plans to publish its findings in January next year.
Claire Hart, a director at the OFT, said: ‘We are keenly aware of continuing widespread concern about the pump price of petrol and diesel, and we have heard a number of different claims about how the market is operating.
‘We have therefore decided to take a broad-based look at this sector, to provide an opportunity for people to share their concerns and evidence with us.
‘This will help us determine whether claims about competition problems are well-founded and whether any further action is warranted.’
Among the questions the OFT is hoping to answer are whether reductions in the price of crude oil are being reflected in falling pump prices; whether supermarkets’ and major oil companies’ practices are making it more difficult for independent retailers to compete; and whether there is a lack of competition between fuel retailers in some remote communities in the UK.
Because if there isn’t enough competition between the big suppliers, then the
key power of consumers – to vote with their feet – is removed.
So with the help of petrolprices.com, Streetwise has taken a look at how much you would pay for fuel in our area and where you can find the best value.
Not surprisingly, as of the end of last week, there is a substantial difference from one station to another.
The lowest local petrol price is 136.7p per litre at Portsmouth’s Asda Bridge Centre, in Holbrook Road, Landport.
Our area’s second least-expensive price – 136.9p per litre – can be found at three locations: Sainsbury’s in Broadcut, in Fareham, the Gosport Road Service Station, and Morrisons in Lakesmere Road, Horndean.
By comparison the highest price in our area is 146p per litre, which means a potential saving of 9.3p per litre.
The difference in diesel prices is even more pronounced.
At Daron Ford, in Rails Lane, Hayling Island, you will pay 139.9p per litre – the lowest around.
Then comes the Asda Bridge Centre in Portsmouth with 140.7p per litre, followed by Asda in Willowdean Close, in Bedhampton, with 141.7p per litre.
But you could end up paying as much as 149.7 per litre, a 9.8p jump from the cheapest to most expensive.
These five tips might also help your fuel go further and increase the amount of time between visits to the pump.
· Slow down
Experts disagree on what is the most efficient speed to drive at, but most put it between 40mph and 60mph.
Avoiding sharp acceleration or braking will also mean your engine is under less strain and will burn less fuel.
· Pump up your tyres
The wrong tyre pressure creates rolling resistance, meaning that your car burns more fuel when you’re driving.
Removing excess weight, such as roof racks, can also increase efficiency.
· Climate control
Keep the air conditioning off and the windows closed to make the most of your fuel. And if you have to keep cool, use one or the other, never both.
· Maintain your car
One of the most crucial factors in making sure your car isn’t burning more than it needs to is making sure it is serviced regularly.
Most experts recommend an annual check-up.