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Are Tayside and Fife drivers being ‘short-changed’ by fuel prices?

Motorists have reported paying more at the pumps in the likes of Dundee and Kirkcaldy than other parts of Scotland.

It is claimed some drivers face a "postcode lottery" over fuel prices.
It is claimed some drivers face a "postcode lottery" over fuel prices.

Drivers in Tayside and Fife claim they are being “short-changed” over fuel prices.

The cost of buying petrol and diesel varies across Scotland – and even between outlets run by the same retailers.

Earlier this week, petrol prices dropped below 145p per litre for the first time in 18 months.

But that has not been good news for all motorists.

One driver told The Courier he noticed the Sainsbury’s garage in Dundee was selling fuel at higher prices at a garage run by the same supermarket in Ayrshire.

Meanwhile a driver in Fife says it is regularly much cheaper to fill up in Aberdeenshire than it is in Kirkcaldy.

An Asda petrol station at Myrekirk Road, Dundee.  Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

The RAC says drivers are facing a “postcode lottery”.

It comes as the Competition and Markets Authority is to quiz supermarket bosses after finding evidence that retailers have increased fuel prices to unnecessarily high levels.

Data from the Petrol Prices app, obtained by The Courier on Thursday, showed Asda in Glenrothes, Sainsbury’s in Kirkcaldy and Morrisons in Glenrothes were all charging nearly 152p per litre for diesel – compared to 132.9p at Tesco in Westhill, Aberdeenshire.

The cost at Asda in Kirkcaldy was cheaper at 148.7p, but still much more than garages in the north-east.

Meanwhile website Go Compare showed drivers at Tesco Dundee Riverside were paying nearly 10p more for petrol than customers at a Tesco store in Kilmarnock.

‘I don’t understand why’

Dave Connor, who lives in Kirkcaldy, said: “My other half lives in Aberdeen so I make the trip up and down the A90 regularly and the difference in diesel prices at the moment is massive.

“The cheapest in Kirkcaldy is 148.7p whereas I can fuel up in Aberdeen at 132.9p. It is at least £10 more to fill the tank in Fife.

“I can’t help feeling Fifers are being short-changed here and I don’t understand why.”

One Dundee man, who has a part-time driving job, says he has noticed a disparity in prices at the pump during his travels.

A Tesco garage on South Road in Dundee. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

He said: “Driving a diesel limo, it really baffles me why I’m being fleeced at Dundee forecourts compared to others in the likes of Aberdeen and Ayrshire.

“The difference per litre can be as much as 20p.

“There’s even a small independent station a few miles west of Kinross vastly undercutting ours.

“Sure, my firm pays for the fuel.

“However, when I’m in my own diesel vehicle, I don’t have the option of filling up with cheaper fuel.”

Why do fuel prices vary so much?

Experts say all retailers vary the price of their fuel depending on area.

Factors such as supply, the base price of fuel and local competition can impact the cost of filling up at each station.

Evidence gathered by the CMA indicates that fuel margins have increased across the retail market, but in particular for supermarkets, over the past four years.

As a result of these increasing margins, average 2022 supermarket pump prices appear to have been about 5p per litre more expensive than they would have been had their average percentage margins remained at 2019 levels, the CMA says.

A study concluding in July will aim to establish if “weaker competition” could be the reason behind the price shift.

Drivers heading for the pumps at Sainsbury’s in Dundee – before recent price changes.

Simon Williams, a fuel spokesman for the RAC, told The Courier he hopes the CMA study will lead to “better value” at the pumps.

He said: “Drivers are rightly perplexed when they see national supermarket brands charging very different prices for fuel in different locations, sometimes not that far apart.

“The behaviour of the UK’s big four supermarkets regarding fuel retailing is now under the scrutiny of the CMA as it has acknowledged what we’ve been saying for some time that average supermarket margins have been increasing.

“With the CMA due to conduct formal interviews with senior managers, we hope this may lead to better value at the pumps for drivers and an end to the postcode lottery of wildly varying fuel prices charged by the same supermarket brand.”

Supermarkets ‘working hard’ to be competitive

When contacted by The Courier, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Tesco said they were working hard to ensure they were offering the best value for customers.

A spokeswoman for Sainsbury’s said: “Pump prices differ throughout the UK (including outlets owned by the same company) for a range of reasons, including the cost of fuel, VAT, fuel duty and the dynamics of local competition.

“We work hard to ensure our petrol stations remain competitive within their local area.”

Morrisons was contacted for comment.