UK petrol boss says he does not condone profiteering as prices hit eight-year high

Filling stations should think twice before putting up fuel prices, says Petrol Retailers Association

Last modified on Tue 28 Sep 2021 06.32 EDT

The boss of the UK’s Petrol Retailers Association has said he does not “condone profiteering”, as petrol prices reached an eight-year high and many filling stations ran dry amid panic buying.

Brian Madderson of the Petrol Retailers Association, which represents independent filling stations in the UK, called on them to think twice about putting up their prices.

“The one thing we do not condone is profiteering in situations like this,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “Most of our members, the independents, have a regular customer base and if they offend their customer base they don’t deserve to have them when this crisis is over,” he said. “People have got long memories and I would urge anybody who thinks about trying to make a fast buck to think again because it just isn’t right.”

Pump prices for fuel in the UK have reached their highest level in eight years, according to figures from the RAC. They showed the average price of a litre of petrol rose from 135.9p on Friday to 136.6p on Sunday, the highest level since September 2013, as motorists scrambled to fill their vehicles.

As crude oil prices surged above $80 (£58) a barrel, petrol prices are likely to go up further. Brent crude, the international benchmark, jumped to $80.50 a barrel on Tuesday morning – a level not seen since 2018.

Madderson said the situation had not improved since Monday when he observed that between 50% and 90% of petrol stations had run out of fuel. “Disappointingly, the messages I’m getting this morning from our retailers are that panic buying does continue,” he added.

He said one of the reasons was social media. “As soon as tanker arrives at filling station, people on social media are advising that a tanker has arrived, and then it’s like bees to a honey pot. Everyone flocks there and within a few hours it’s out again.”

He said the big oil companies – Shell, BP and ExxonMobil’s Esso – were hopeful that a more normal service could be achieved within three to four days, “provided the panic buying ceases”.

The government has drawn up a national emergency plan under which half of all petrol stations would become DFSs – designated fuel stations – for emergency workers. Madderson said the definition of who is an emergency worker and what credentials they would need to show still had to be worked out. “It’s a last resort situation and hopefully we’re not there yet,” he said.

Boris Johnson has ordered the army to remain on standby to help fuel reach petrol stations hit by panic buying.

Tom Pugh, a UK economist at RSM, formerly known as Baker Tilly, warned the fuel shortages could damage the UK’s economic growth if they extend beyond this week.

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