The PRA has angrily hit back at claims by the AA that dealers are profiteering on the price they charge for diesel.

The AA claims that differentials between the wholesale and retail price of diesel, compared with petrol, suggest retailers are "creaming up to £1 a tank extra off diesel car drivers and up to £1.40 a tank extra off diesel van owners".

PRA chairman Brian Madderson said: "This is another cheap buckshot from the AA which hits the independent petrol retailers. If the AA thinks that the independents are "creaming" the market why is the trend decline of 5,000 closures since 2000 continuing with a net 175 shutting up for business last year and a similar level exiting the market during the first half of 2013?

"The AA are not doing their own members any service by contributing to the downsizing of the UK’s road fuel network with such irresponsible reporting. ’Rural fuel deserts’ will become an even greater reality thanks to [AA president] Edmund King and his colleagues."

Madderson added: "Dealers have to balance their margins over a period of time and 12 months is the accounting norm. Thus there are times when margins are very low and times when they are higher, but this does not justify sensational reports of ’retailers creaming motorists’ or ’retailers profiteering at the pumps’."

In its June Fuel Price Report, the AA says: "Comparing the price of diesel with the price of petrol, before tax, wholesale diesel over the past month averaged less than 2.5 pence a litre more expensive than petrol. Yet, at the pump, stripping the tax out, diesel has averaged nearly 3.9p a litre dearer than petrol a 1.4ppl boost to the margin."