Motorway service areas (MSAs) owned or supplied by major oil companies continue to extort their customers by pricing fuel much higher than at their standard company-owned sites, according to Brian Madderson, chairman of the Petrol Retailers’ Association (PRA).

Recent data produced by Experian Catalist showed that Shell branded petrol purchased on a motorway was 14 pence per litre (ppl) more expensive than Shell-branded petrol purchased at one of the oil company’s  standard sites. Diesel was as much as 12ppl more. The gap between prices for Esso branded fuel was similar.

Madderson said:“Two-tier pricing was just one of the many areas for concern raised by independent fuel retailers to the Office of Fair Trading during their recent ’call for information’, which indicated that the UK fuels market was not working properly.

“It is essential that the OFT responds to the many complaints by confirming that it will undertake a new market study under the Enterprise Act 2002, when presenting its findings in January 2013.”

Given public concern about fuel pricing, Madderson said it was good to note that "our independent retailers have helped to lead fuel prices down this week", with several reporting that they had dropped prices below local supermarket competition.

“This was confirmed by the closeness of UK average fuel prices for independently owned sites being just 2ppl adrift from the average for supermarkets at the beginning of this week," confirmed Madderson. "This has prompted another round of price-cutting by the supermarkets.

“However, the UK wholesale market for road fuels remains volatile and petrol costs rose again by over 1.2ppl on Tuesday night so this trend in falling prices is not guaranteed to continue.

“Therefore the Government’s plans for hiking fuel duty by 3.02ppl on January 1, 2013, with the prospect of a further 2ppl on April 1, are potentially crippling to household budgets.

“With 20% VAT added, total fuel tax could rise by as much as 7ppl in the first few months of 2013. To have any chance of re-igniting the economy, the Chancellor must freeze duty when he presents the Autumn Statement next month.”