Spring petrol sales decline despite lower forecourt prices

Petrol Petrol prices fell by more than 10p per litre in April to 131.19p at the end of June

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Nearly half a billion fewer litres of petrol and diesel were sold between April and June than during the same period last year, says the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

The reduction came despite a fall in fuel prices during the period.

It came after sales rose at the start of the year when the threat of a tanker drivers' strike saw panic buying.

Motoring organisation the AA said price rises since 2008 have contributed to a "steady decline" in the overall market.

The government figures show that more than 2 billion fewer litres of petrol and diesel were sold compared with the same period in 2008, before the recession.

In the first half of this year, a total of 16.7 billion litres of fuel was sold on forecourts in the UK.

This compares with total sales of nearly 19 billion litres between January and June 2008.

'Fair deal'

In the first three months of this year, meanwhile, there was a rise in petrol sales of almost 120 million litres compared with the same period in 2011.

Demand for fuel shot up at the end of March after ministers urged people to stock up amid threats of a strike by tanker drivers.

But the government rejected claims by retailers their advice had caused panic buying.

Petrol Retailers Association chairman Brian Madderson told BBC Radio 5 liveBreakfast that, during a week of "government-inspired panic buying", sales of petrol "got up to over a 170% of its normal rate".

Start Quote

Price transparency is the way forward - to ensure and show drivers that they are getting a fair deal at the pump”

End Quote Edmund King, AA

"So by the end of March everybody with a car had their tanks full of petrol and, of course, after that, in the second quarter, sales fell off the cliff."

The AA blamed the slump on the fuel industry for "trying to squeeze more money out of shrinking customer demand".

Its president Edmund King acknowledged that panic buying - as well as wet weather - may have played a part in the April-June fall.

"However, petrol prices slumped more than 10p a litre - from the record of 142.48p a litre in mid-April to the low-point of 131.19p at the end of June - and UK drivers began to travel further with lighter evenings, bank holidays and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations," he said.

He added: "While we welcome the fact that new cars have become more fuel-efficient, this goes nowhere near to accounting for the crash in demand over the past three months, and the past five years."

He said the fall in sales since 2008 had to "bring some sense of reality to the fuel market and the government".

"However, we have seen the fuel industry trying to squeeze more money out of shrinking customer demand, as was the case when wholesale diesel was cheaper than petrol in early spring but drivers and businesses were forced to pay 5p a litre more.

"Price transparency is the way forward - to ensure and show drivers that they are getting a fair deal at the pump."

Meanwhile, the AA's head of motoring Paul Watters warned that ministers may have to look elsewhere to make up lost tax revenues.

"We've heard talk of the government finding a real struggle in getting the revenues in that it was expecting and this dramatic drop won't help them one iota," he told BBC Radio 5 live.

"It will make them a bit desperate, perhaps looking towards road pricing again or looking towards squeezing more out of the tax disc that we all pay for."

A spokesman for the Department of Transport has yet to respond to a request for a comment.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    Over the last year, the vast majority of my "disposable income" has gone on fuel, either the car or domestic heating oil... All essentials have gone up due to transportation costs - fuel! So no more clothes, meals out, holidays or goods for me... How about realising that to restart the economy, you need to sort out the money pit that is the fuel game... The lost fuel tax is within goods VAT!

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    The AA comments on this like it's a disaster, but surely this is great news.
    Less miles driven, less CO2, less time spent in traffic jams etc. If people are switching to cycling or changing their lifestyles to reduce unnecessary journeys, then this can only be good for society as a whole.

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    Are you buying less petrol?


    I dumped my car a while back, cars are a financial scam
    The government robs you and the Insurance companies rob you

    On top of that, the roads around Edinburgh are third world cart tracks

    crash crump bump bang
    crash crump bump bang
    crash crump bump bang

    Then spend 5 minutes at each traffic light staring at the empty road in front of you


    no thanks

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    there are tankers full of oil drifting around owned by the speculators and banks just ready to pounce in and make a killing on the timing,according the observers magazine ethical journalist,
    the LETS MAKE A KILLING BRIGADE,are there to exploit any situation thus.
    we THE LETS MAKE A LIVING PEOPLE ,will get stuffed every time

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    2008 financial crash led to record spikes in the price of oil and STILL petrol barely passed £1.20 a litre! How are they justifying the current price at the pumps, even accounting for inflation etc? Interesting how in that same year oil prices went from $147 a barrel to around $48 a barrel in December yet petrol prices only dropped from around the £1.20 mark to 94/5p a litre? Hardly a fair drop.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    I have taken several measures in the past 2 years to try and reduce my outgoings due to fuel, the first was ditching the car and getting a motorcycle, secondly I changed jobs to work closer to home, and now I have taken to lift sharing, I don't know what more I can do, fuel prices did drop a little, but they have gone back up again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    I bet a Ministerial Jaguar XJ Sentinel,supercharged,5.0 Litre,V8,six speed automatic,with the Bowers and Wilkins,1200 watt,20 speaker,Dolby 7:1 surround sound system,are not cheap to run...

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    Like millions, I work unsocial hours when public transport is unreliable, unsafe or non-existent.

    I run a small car:
    1) Fuel duty + VAT @20%
    2) MOT + 20% - 2 new tyres + 20% VAT
    3) Insurance + 5% IPT - 6% from 2013
    4) Road Fund licence + charge by DVLA for online renewal
    5) Don't personally know anyone who drives for pleasure, just necessity.
    6) Not everyone is physically able to ride bicycles

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    126. Sadlerorchit
    Your Government is grateful to you for volunteering your service to your country....
    The death-squad has been despatched & will be with you soon.
    Perhaps you'd like to smoke one last cigarette in the time you have left.?
    If only more citizens were as socially committed as yourself, the county would be stronger & more able to overcome the challenges of the future.

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    Perhaps motorists are just getting sick of being ripped off by greedy oil companies and insurance companies and are taking the only way they know of retaliating. When oil companies are as swift to reduce their prices when the wholesale price of petrol comes down as they are to put it up when it rises, then perhaps motorists will become more enthusiastic about buying petrol.

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    So yet more pressure on Govt debt/deficit with corresponding fall in tax receipts with falling petrol sales....

    ....when will our work experience Chancellor & his Omnishambles Govt realise their self imposed austerity is trashing the economy?

    The deficit hit a new RECORD HIGH this year:


  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    I work hard and try my best to pay my excessive bills, but to be taxed on tax on tax within fuel is just plain corruption and greed and very wrong. To all the propaganda feeding no idea how we have to survive politicians and greedy profit making companies.....Its time the UKs people made a stand.!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    I've wanted a car for quite a while, but whereas 20 years ago, people like my partner and me would have bought one by now, we now cannot justify the cost. The cars themselves are very expensive to buy, insurance is insane, and the fuel is extortionate. It is much cheaper for us to use public transport in London. You need to have a family all travelling together or a car is much more costly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    People complaining about Oil Companies fixing prices need to wise up and realise that more than 60% of the cost is tax levied by the Government. And before you go badgering on about this Conservative Government you should realise that it was Labour that hiked fuel duty some 20+p/l between 1997-2007.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    What amazes me is that we are still dependent on this outdated fuel system. If the government really wanted to end our dependence on the oil cartels it would invest in alternative fuel systems. Oh, but wait the government have no incentive to kill off their biggest cash cow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    Looking on the bright side - wearing my rose tinted goggles - it means our lords and masters can now be chauffeured around at our expense without have to mix it with the plebs. This lot, and the others before them, certainly know how to milk the system to their advantage. Thank goodness for public transport... if and when it decides to turn up when the weather turns nasty.

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    @ 98...
    i presume you get free a free bus pass.
    a bus pass for a day is 4.20 in my city... getting a return is more expensive.
    may as well get a car

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    I don't fill my car up to the brim anymore, as I worked out that half a tank was just enough to last a week's worth of commuting. So I spend the same amount each week on the same day. If more people are also doing this, it would go towards partly explaining the drop because people are only buying the fuel they need.

    Also, prices are not lower.

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    "Price transparency is the way forward: to ensure and show drivers that they are getting a fair deal at the pump."
    Road Tax, Fuel Duty, VAT.. I don't agree it is fair we get taxed 3 times to drive our car. There are probably more little taxes I don't know about. Our government's laughing. In some countries you pay road tax and others you pay tax per mile through petrol. We pay both.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    With the collaberation that is between oil companies and our governments,re pricing and taxation,we motorists will never get a fair deal.
    So one has to compromise on fuel use.


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