Retailer pressure was behind BP’s resumption of talks with card giant Arval, according to PRA director Ray Holloway. Having been told in August that BP had decided to discontinue its Arval connection due to escalating costs,

a group of extremely irate retailers - with the backing of about 80% of the company’s dealer network - approached BP for a meeting in which they expressed their utmost anger at the decision.

Holloway, described the move as "unprecedented", and said it showed what retailers were capable of if they used their collective power. BP’s dealer network is now waiting to see if the deal, which allows BP sites to continue accepting Arval fuel cards, is a long-term solution or if they will be asked to pick up any extra costs when they sign new contracts. BP and Arval were remaining tight-lipped on the details of the deal, but it is believed the two sides have moved from a percentage fee to a fixed price per litre.

Meanwhile, other oil companies say they are looking into how to control costs for their retailers accepting Arval.

Paul Sykes, managing director of Shaw Petroleum, said: "It’s incredible that two companies the size of Arval and BP could get themselves to this position in the first place. It really was an astonishing turn of events - and a real eleventh hour decision."

Andrew Jackson, general manager of the Malthurst network, was one of the dealer representatives involved in the talks with BP and Arval. He said he was delighted with the deal. He added: "The level of charges that Arval has been making has been a problem for some time.

"So I’m sure any company that has been dealing with Arval will have been saying the same thing - that they need to consider the level of their charges."

The Arval furore has highlighted the issue of how important fuel cards are for independents. See our News Extra on page 10 for a look at the various cards available for the UK market, and how the BP/Arval deal could have wider repurcussions for the whole industry.