Fuel retailers have been praised by the RAC for keeping a lid on fuel prices despite rising oil costs in recent weeks. 

Its latest Fuel Watch report revealed that the average price of petrol and diesel at UK forecourts stayed the same throughout March despite a rise in the wholesale cost of both fuels. The average price of petrol at the big four supermarkets was also broadly unchanged with a litre of unleaded being sold for 116p and diesel for 119p.

The report said: "Retailers, who are often criticised for increasing pump prices faster than they bring them down, appear to have helped motorists as the price of oil went up 5% from $63.98 at the start of March to $67.23 by the end of the month. While sterling gained on the dollar very slightly with a pound being worth $1.40 – up from $1.37 at the close of March – the wholesale price of petrol went up nearly 4p a litre and diesel by almost 2.5p a litre. 

"In spite of this, retailers did not pass on increased costs, perhaps as they had been benefitting from lower wholesale costs for several weeks before. Whatever the reason, motorists have not had to endure a sudden jump in the price of a litre of fuel."

RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said: “It’s good to see fuel prices haven’t gone up as a result of the increased cost of a barrel of oil which gained $4 in the second half of March. Retailers have clearly absorbed some of this cost which is good news for motorists who had seen prices rise for three consecutive months from November to January.

“Looking ahead there is a glimmer of hope that motorists may be about to benefit from some cheaper forecourt prices in April. At a global level there is much going on which may lead to a drop in the oil price: the developing trade friction between the US and China, increased oil production from fracking in the US and rising oil supply despite OPEC’s ongoing attempts to curb output. Each of these factors has the potential to cause the oil price to fall which would almost certainly bring pump prices down.”

The West Midlands saw the biggest increase in the price of unleaded with half a pence being added to the price at its forecourts – 119.89p. Motorists in the East saw their average petrol prices reduce the most, albeit only by a third of a pence – 120.63p. The South East had the most expensive petrol at both the beginning and end of the month at 121p a litre.

Despite diesel going up the most in Northern Ireland (0.34p) motorists there are still paying the lowest prices for the fuel, a penny below the UK average at 121.71p a litre. The South East once again had the most expensive diesel at 123.63p a litre.