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 441.

    How is this news? Oil is a finite resource. Production peaked in 2006. Since it is such a valuable material (it is used to make plastics, pharmaceuticals, fertilizers), we shouldn't really be setting fire to it in the first place. Collosal waste and I have no sympathy for the motorist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 440.

    Stopped leisure trips, surely seaside and other tourist attractions must be feeling the pinch? My car's still considerably cheaper than the bus or train. Fuel pricing and public transport policy is absurd, it's like something dreamed up by Franz Kafka.

  • rate this

    Comment number 439.

    Some people need to be reminded that it’s not the Oil Companies that are fleecing us, it’s the Gov’ & their tax & duty take, this makes up the majority of the price.
    We have reached a point where owning a more efficient car is pointless; they will just put up the taxes again to match any gains you make.
    We are being taxed off the roads & this isn’t helping the economy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 438.

    Don't care. Lost interest in the price of petrol when I traded in 2 litre auto saloon for a small hatchback.

  • rate this

    Comment number 437.

    What else can happen when 80% of the cost of fuel is fuel tax and then VAT is charged on the fuel tax. Let's have United States prices 55p (per litre) and sales will rise! The trouble is the government whats to 'have it's cake' and eat it. They are happy to take all the tax motorists pay and at the same time actively and drastically discourage motoring with onerous restrictions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 436.

    The lower sales of petrol is probably due to us poor saps that work in the private sector, and have not had a payrise since 2008, and having to economise!

  • rate this

    Comment number 435.

    No good buying better fuel efficient cars George would up the fuel duty to compensate

  • rate this

    Comment number 434.

    I am pleasantly surprised by the drop in petrol sales as, for once, it seems that the British public are reacting to being continually ripped off. Petrol, gas, electricity, water, rail fares, football ticket prices, .....I could go on. In all these areas, the British consumer is treated as a money cow to be milked dry by all and sundry. The fight-back begins...! Stop taking us for granted!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 433.

    chriswiltshire...use current technology called the internet or works intranet - work from home with links to your work and travel in maybe 2 times a week for catchup....you just need to work a little harder on discussing with your boss this idea...

    Not much good if the place you depend upon for work won't....or perhaps can't (maybe it's not feasible due to the type of work)....implement it !

  • rate this

    Comment number 432.

    388. Jon
    To add to my point at 366, one place i work in Essex employs 400 people, 300 are Polish, the Brits earn £12.50 an hour, the Polish £6.19, they are supplied by a Polish agency, thats 300 jobs at £12.50 an hour we are losing in one place, thats £500 a week for each person. most of which goes to Poland,
    Magic. Your Poles live in Britain & spend nothing? Really????

  • rate this

    Comment number 431.

    People are skint and cannot afford to fill up as much as before. Simple maths. Not rocket science. The Govt should enforce companies to pay decent salaries and not just increase minimum wage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 430.

    A reduction in fuel consumption says the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

    It must be all those hybrid cars that we've been led to believe will be our private transport saviour.

    And what a departmental name "Department of Energy and Climate Change" surely at odds with itself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 429.

    where are these lower prices, god the bbc have no clue

  • rate this

    Comment number 428.

    News of a reduction in fuel purchases and therefore tax must be kept from the ears of Slasher and his poodle Danny. Otherwise it will be used as an excuse to scrap bus passes so that the elderly are induced to buy more fuel, thus clogging up the roads that no-one can afford to improve and polluting the environment that would otherwise continue to benefit from lower fuel consumption.

  • rate this

    Comment number 427.

    Petrol outlets in this area of the East Midlands are having a makeover. Waitrose to Shell, Texaco to Shell and the prices on the forecourt are - YES you've guessed going UP. (Petrol 138 diesel 140-142)
    A BP franchise is charging 4p more on both petrol and diesel within 2 miles of three Shell petrol stations. How greedy is that?
    Sainsbury, cheaper than Asda by a penny and both cheaper than Tesco.

  • rate this

    Comment number 426.

    I blame Bradley Wiggins and Victoria Pendleton. These people have questions to answer for BP shareholders. Nothing less than a public inquiry will suffice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 425.


    Doesn't cost me anything to ride my bike apart from 3 Weetabix!
    Shhhhh if the Government find out there will be 80% duty on weetabix soon! they have to make the numbers up some how!

  • rate this

    Comment number 424.

    This shows that at last people are more conscious of how much fuel costs and are planning more carefully.

  • rate this

    Comment number 423.

    Pretty standard response to rising prices. Just the laws of supply and demand in action, people use alternatives, buy more fuel efficient cars etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 422.

    All the price hikes are either by the government in power and rumours about america attacking iran or somewhere else.We are just being ripped off.just like utility costs.If we use less of what they want us to use.Gas.electric. They then put up their prices. Same happens when they say .leave your car at home and use buses or trains.when we do that.Up go the prices.I no longer do free call outs


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