The PRA has reacted angrily to claims that fuel retailers are profiteering after rises of 4ppl in average retail fuel prices over the last month, and said dealers are doing everything they can to keep prices down.

PRA chairman Brian Madderson commented: “The oil market has rebounded strongly pushing up the wholesale cost of petrol by 8ppl in less than six weeks since the start of March.

“During this time the average retail price for petrol across the UK has only increased by just over 4ppl to 106ppl, so it is ludicrous for industry commentators to suggest that retailers are profiteering.

“This is a market sector so competitive and so scarred by ultra-low margins that more than 4,000 independent operators have been forced out of the industry in the last 15 years. This grim trend of decline continues with another 165 forecourt business closing their doors in 2015.”

Madderson said that prices were likely to increase further, because the City was forecasting that sterling would weaken against the dollar in the run-up to the EU referendum on June 23.

He added: “We expect sub £1 per litre pricing to be consigned to the history books as we head towards the summer months.”

Oil traders appeared to support this forecast at a Financial Times conference yesterday (April 12) in Lausanne, when they suggested the two-year slump in oil prices is over.

The consensus from the meeting was that the prices of less than $30 a barrel, seen in January, were unlikely to recur.

Prices dipped to $27.82 on January 20, but had recovered to $44.68 by yesterday.