UK average petrol and diesel prices are expected to remain at record levels over Christmas and into the new year, according to the RAC. The motoring organisation claims fuel retailers “continue to overcharge” drivers for fuel, with average prices at their highest ever for this time of year.

The RAC’s Fuel Watch initiative suggests the average UK petrol price is currently 152.96p per litre – 7p per litre more than it was on December 22 last year. Diesel, on the other hand, is a massive 27p a litre more expensive than it was a year ago, hitting 175.75p per litre.

As a result, a typical 55-litre tank of petrol is now almost £4 more expensive than it was last year, at an average of around £84. And for diesel, the increase is even more marked, with a 55-litre fill-up costing almost £97 – a rise of almost £15 compared with last year.

Woman filling up her car at petrol station

But the RAC claims drivers are being overcharged by fuel retailers, as the wholesale price of petrol – the amount retailers pay to buy the fuel – has fallen to the same level seen this time last year. The wholesale price of diesel, meanwhile, has dropped to 126p per litre – just 14p more than it was last Christmas.

Yet prices are noticeably higher, despite the government’s 5p-per-litre fuel duty cut, which was designed to combat the increasing cost of fuel caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In theory, therefore, the RAC suggests average petrol prices “should” be around 138p per litre and diesel should cost roughly 160p per litre.

Pumps at petrol station

“With the cost-of-living crisis making this one of the toughest Christmases on record, it is even more galling to know drivers are being heartlessly overcharged for fuel making this the most expensive ever festive getaway on the roads,” said RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams. “The big four supermarkets, which dominate UK fuel retailing, have robustly refused to significantly lower their forecourt prices to reflect what’s happened with the substantial reduction in the price of wholesale fuel that they are enjoying.

“We now have a bizarre situation where many smaller independent retailers are charging far less for their fuel than the supermarkets. The trouble is, after years of the supermarkets being the cheapest place to fill up, many drivers automatically assume this is still the case and may be losing out as a result.

Man at petrol station filling up

“We urge the supermarkets to properly cut their petrol and diesel prices to give drivers the Christmas present they deserve. Sadly though, having seen a similar situation last year where the biggest retailers failed to pass on much lower wholesale costs, we’re not holding out much hope they will do the right thing this year. We suspect they’re just going to try to tough out all our calls for price cuts in the hope the price of oil will go back up in the new year.

“The only consolation for drivers is that both petrol and diesel have fallen a long way from their summer highs of 191.5p for unleaded and 199.09p for diesel.”

The calls come after a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) review of petrol prices found evidence of so-called “rocket-and-feather” pricing among retailers this year. The review suggested retailers have been increasing prices rapidly when the oil price is going up, but reducing prices more slowly when the oil price falls dramatically.

That said, the review also said the CMA had “seen no evidence that retailers in aggregate have profited from failing to pass on the fuel duty cut”. In its response to the review, the Petrol Retailers Association expressed its pleasure with the findings, claiming retailers had been “exonerated” from “unfounded accusations” of profiteering.