Forecourt retailers have given short shrift to the CMA’s campaign to make fuel pricing more transparent, with many arguing that pricing is already easy to find.
Kishor Kotecha, financial controller at MPK Garages Ltd, said: “All fuel prices are already transparent! They can be seen on pole signs at every station, they can be gathered electronically via Catalist, Edge etc and there is plenty of social media coverage in local areas.”
Roger Perry, owner of Harog Services, agreed: “The prices are already out there for people who want to find them. I think this is the CMA playing to the gallery, so to speak, ie they need to be seen to be doing something.”
As for criticism of increased fuel margins, Roger added: “What the CMA needs to understand is ‘yes’ margins are increasing but so are costs, I mean we have just had the announcement of the 10% increase in wages. The RAC still talks about this 7ppl margin but that is not sustainable any more. We have to remain profitable to remain in business.”
Meanwhile, Peter Hockenhull of Top 50 Indie Hockenhull Garages believes there’s a massive flaw in the CMA’s thinking: “It’s very easy to come out with a carte blanche statement like the CMA has but they haven’t addressed the differences across the sites. Site volumes make a huge difference and they vary by location. Sites thrive thanks to their volumes and their shop sales.
“You might have a site that’s doing 4mlpa and another that’s doing 1.5mlpa however both those sites have the same overheads. They’ve got their rates, their electricity and their staff costs. But their volumes are poles apart and you are not comparing like for like.”
Rob Exelby of Exelby Services said he feels that some of the media buzz about forecourts being too expensive has died down a bit: “FairFuel are still banging their drum but generally perception is better and it’s not a big headline. We changed our pricing strategy recently and are getting good feedback. We look at prices on a local basis and see whether we can sacrifice some margin for more volume.”
With regard to the CMA mandate, Rob said that, of course, he will comply but it is still unclear where forecourts will have to publish their prices – whether it’s on a Facebook post or on a website, for example.
Gordon Balmer executive director of the PRA said: “We are co-operating fully with the CMA in respect of the interim price advice scheme to ensure both motorists and retailers can access up to the minute data. I am also looking forward to receiving the consultation on the more permanent scheme and the proposed fuel monitor. I will continue to help the government to understand our sector and the challenges our members face.”