CMA chief executive Sarah Cardell

A system has now been set up to enable fuel retailers to share their prices online, according to the Competition and Markets Authority.

In an open letter to stakeholders in the road fuel market, its chief executive Sarah Cardell said: “The CMA has now completed its role in relation to creating the temporary scheme by publishing the final technical standards. It is now for fuel retailers to implement this scheme for their own pricing data if they choose to participate.”

The voluntary scheme has been set up after the CMA found that competition between the supermarkets was not working properly and it said there was a need to increase transparency in fuel pricing.

Its proposals, which have been enthusiastically backed by the government, include powers to compel retailers to make real-time fuel prices available on-line, but as this will require legislation, the CMA proposed a temporary voluntary scheme to operate from the end of August until the law could be introduced.

In her letter Cardell said: “The key principles of the voluntary scheme are that the daily price updates should be available in a consistent machine-readable format, free of charge and unencumbered for onward use.”

“This temporary scheme relies on the voluntarily cooperation of fuel retailers. The purpose of it is to deliver quickly some of the benefits of open accessible pricing information to consumers while awaiting legislation. It will provide more recent pricing data, in an open and unencumbered manner, than is currently available.”

Retailers taking part will be expected to provide daily updates for their prices of E10 and E5 petrol as well as B5 diesel and SDV super diesel at every site they operate.

In an appendex it noted: “A retailer may unilaterally decide to provide prices for further fuel types such as LPG, EV or other,” but it added: “ “Without standardisation, third parties may struggle to use this information.”

Cardell continued: “We recognise the interim scheme is limited, especially given that there will sometimes be a lag between the setting of forecourt prices and the prices displayed by the third-party comparator. This is why we have recommended that a full statutory scheme be put in place as soon as possible.

“We welcome the fact that Department for Energy Security and Net Zero officials are exploring whether a version of the open data fuel-finder scheme could be introduced in advance of the legislation, on a voluntary basis, bringing the fuller benefits of our recommendation to consumers sooner.”