Energy Secretary Grant Shapps

Energy Secretary Grant Shapps held a meeting with the bosses of the major supermarkets and the oil companies today seeking to get a voluntary price sharing scheme working by next month.

His move follows the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) report earlier this month which found that supermarkets’ fuel margins had risen because of poor competition in the market.

The CMA called for real-time prices to be publicised, which was backed by Shapps, but it will require new legislation to be passed to enforce it.

The government said it would consult on the scheme in the autumn, but in the interim Shapps wants the biggest fuel retailers to agree to a voluntary scheme to come into operation in August.

RAC fuel spokesperson Simon Williams said: “While we fully support Mr Shapps’ attempt to get the supermarkets to voluntarily provide real-time pump prices ahead of legislation being passed to force them to do so, it is unlikely to bring prices down.

“We fear the Energy Secretary’s efforts may be in vain, particularly as apps like myRAC already allow all drivers to compare prices free of charge. What’s badly needed is an official wholesale fuel price monitoring function which has the power to fine or take action against major retailers who don’t lower their forecourt prices when wholesale costs drop significantly.

“While the Competition and Markets Authority recommended an element of monitoring wholesale prices in its report in UK fuel retailing, the RAC fears without the threat of consequence in the form of fines, the biggest retailers are unlikely to lower their pump prices quickly enough when the wholesale market trends down. This aspect of the CMA’s report needs to be properly addressed when legislation is put before Parliament.

“Competition only works where one or more retailers focus consistently on cutting prices to get more people to use their forecourts. Sadly, this is something that is currently missing everywhere but in Northern Ireland where fuel retailing is fairer on drivers.”