Independent dealers have been praised by the AA for seizing the chance to undercut the fuel prices of the Big Four in its latest Fuel Price Report.

It says: “Driver confidence in supermarkets as the bastions of cheapest pump prices has been rocked over the past month. The gap between what the Big Four and non-supermarket rivals charge on average for petrol has fallen to below 3ppl for the first time in 12 months.”

It adds: “One of the independent retailer chains is, on average, undercutting the second biggest of the Big Four supermarkets (by market share) on both petrol and diesel prices.”

It shows that average petrol prices at Sainsbury’s rose by 2.53ppl in the month to February 14 to 120.07, and diesel increased by 2.11ppl, while no other significant retailer put either fuel up by more than 1ppl.

This means that Jet, with petrol at 119.56ppl, and diesel at 121.55ppl, is undercutting the supermarket group in both fuels.

The report also highlights a north/south divide with higher prices in the south. It reports the South East average petrol price was 121ppl while in the north, where Asda and Morrisons have their heartland, the North East average was 119ppl.

Overall UK averages were 120.11ppl for petrol and 122.32 for diesel, up 0.63ppl and 0.34ppl respectively.

AA president Edmund King commented: “We accept that it is the prerogative of any retailer to charge what they like for fuel and, in the past, we have seen supermarkets switch to fighting their price wars in the aisles rather than on the forecourts. However, this latest change of tactic comes after nearly 15 months of tight fuel-price competition among supermarkets.

“Drivers need to keep their ears and eyes open to locate lower pump prices. That may be a case of buying fuel in a neighbouring town with more competitive prices. Along the A3, from Portsmouth towards London, supermarket petrol varies by as much as 8ppl – a difference we used to associate with the gap between motorway and non-motorway prices.”