The RAC has slammed petrol stations’ “unjustified” pricing after fuel prices rose by 3p per litre in November, despite a drop in the price of oil. According to the RAC’s Fuel Watch initiative, the average price of unleaded petrol was more than 3p a litre higher at the end of November than at the beginning of the month.

To be precise, the RAC says the average litre of petrol cost 147.28p at the end of November, up 3.1p on the price at the start of the month. And the fuel hit a record high of 147.72p per litre on November 21. Similarly, diesel prices rose 2.7p per litre last month, hitting a record 151.1p per litre on November 20 before settling to 150.64p per litre at the end of the month.

Yet those increases come despite a 10p drop in the wholesale price (the amount retailers pay to buy the fuel they then sell on to consumers) of petrol last month. The RAC says the wholesale cost fell to its lowest level since September, but retailers retained high prices with “absolutely no justification”.

Woman filling her car at a petrol station

As a result, the motoring organisation says it is “pleading” with retailers to cut their pump prices by around 12p per litre for petrol and 7p per litre for diesel. Alternatively, the organisation wants a clear explanation of why prices have remained at such high levels despite reductions in the wholesale price of fuel.

The company has also warned that the high cost of fuel in the UK at present is “hurting drivers at the worst possible time”, with Christmas just around the corner. And it says the effects of such high fuel costs are most likely to be felt among the less well off in society.

Woman putting petrol in her car at Asda petrol station

“Sadly, our data shows all too clearly that drivers are being taken for a ride by retailers at the moment,” said RAC fuel spokesperson Simon Williams. “We can’t see any justification for the prices that are being charged at the pumps and are concerned that drivers on lower incomes who depend on their vehicles are being priced off the road altogether. The wholesale petrol price, which is what retailers pay to buy new supply, dropped by 10p from mid-November, so we can’t see how any increase – let alone a 3p one – was warranted.

“There’s also a clear argument that competition in fuel retailing isn’t working, a fact demonstrated by no one publicly defending their refusal to lower pump prices. There appears to be no desire among the big four retailers, which dominate fuel sales, to lower their prices to entice customers to store.

“We urge the government to intervene now. It’s a sad fact that the Chancellor’s fuel duty freeze last month, while welcome, simply wasn’t anywhere near enough to ease the burden now being placed on millions of households who have no choice but to use their vehicles. While the Chancellor could introduce a temporary cut in VAT on motor fuel it might be better for the government to ask the biggest retailers to explain why they’re charging such high prices for fuel when wholesale prices have dropped.”