Competition & Markets Authority
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High fuel margins ‘concerning’ CMA finds

The CMA’s latest monitoring report on road fuel shows that prices at the pump have risen since late January, accompanied by above average margins and spreads.

  • Fuel margins are still high, as the CMA saw during its market study
  • New Pumpwatch powers must come into force so drivers can access real-time price data – to boost competition

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is collecting data from fuel retailers under the interim scheme which remains voluntary, until the CMA’s statutory compulsory information gathering powers come into effect later this year.

Today’s report sets out the CMA’s observations on developments in the market since the previous update in November 2023.  

Dan Turnbull, Senior Director of Markets at the CMA, said:  

Drivers are feeling the pinch as fuel prices have been edging up since January. We’re particularly concerned by high margins which indicate weakened competition and are not a good sign for drivers.

Today’s report reinforces the need for Pumpwatch and statutory powers to be in place as soon as possible, to ensure competition is effective in this market and to get a better deal for UK drivers.

Fuel margins

Today’s report finds that fuel margins of retailers – the difference between what a retailer pay for its fuel and what it sells at – remain at the high levels seen during the CMA’s market study.

On a percentage basis, supermarkets recorded margins of 4% in 2017, which increased to 7.6% in 2022 (the year the CMA carried out its market study) and 7.8% in 2023. For other retailers, margins were 6.4% in 2017, increasing to 7.3% in 2022 and 9.1% in 2023.

Fuel margin figures for 2023 are based on the calendar year, as the financial year is ongoing. All other annual figures are based on the financial year. As such, the comparison is not like-for-like but gives a strong indication of competition issues in the sector.

This sustained increase in the level of fuel margins is concerning and suggests that a key finding of the CMA’s market study – that overall levels of competitive intensity have weakened in the road fuel retail market – remains valid. This emphasises the importance of the government pressing ahead with its plans to implement both recommendations from the CMA, for a statutory monitoring function and statutory fuel-finder scheme, as soon as possible, which will help drive greater competition in the market.

Fuel prices

The report covers fuel prices at the pump from the end of October 2023 to the end of February 2024.

Overall, while pump prices for both petrol and diesel have decreased since October 2023, this can be divided into two separate periods.

From late October to late January petrol prices decreased by approximately 14ppl (from 153.97ppl to 139.39 ppl) but between January and late February fuel prices have edged up by around 5ppl (to 144.73 ppl).

The price of diesel also fell 14ppl (from 161.76ppl to 147.93ppl) between late October to late January. Since then, it has risen by over 6ppl (to 154.53ppl) between January and late February. This has been driven, in part, by global factors such as changing crude oil prices.


The CMA also looked at the retail spread – the average price that drivers pay at the pump compared to the benchmarked price that retailers buy fuel at – from November 2023 to the end of February 2024.

While spread analysis can give a quick overview of trends in the sector, it is a less reliable indicator of competitive intensity than individual retailers’ fuel margins.

Retail spreads increase and decrease in response to the volatility of wholesale prices but are expected to return to a normal range over time.

Retail spreads were above the long-term average of 5-10ppl, with petrol averaging 15.2ppl and diesel averaging 15.15ppl from November to February.

This has increased since the CMA’s previous report, which covered the period of May to end-October, where the average spread was 12.3ppl for both petrol and diesel.

If average spreads remain elevated for an extended period of time, this could indicate a lack of retail competition in the sector.

Data collection

The CMA issued requests for information to: Applegreen – Petrogas, Asda, Bp, Esso, Euro Garages Ltd, Morrisons, Moto Hospitality, Motor Fuel Group, Rontec, Sainsburys, Shell, Tesco, and Welcome Break.

Responses were received in time for inclusion in this report from all but Shell. However, Shell has been providing data voluntarily in response to our information requests since January 2024.

Temporary pricing data scheme  

Separately, the temporary pricing data scheme set up by the CMA now has 14 retailers participating, representing approximately 40% of UK forecourts and more than 65% of fuel sold. The data is used by third parties such as and the AA, providing pricing information in an open, transparent manner.

The CMA welcomes its role as the permanent fuel monitor and awaits the outcome of the consultation by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero. This closed on 12 March.

For more information, visit the road fuel monitoring case page.

Notes to Editors

  1. At the end of its road fuel market study, the CMA recommended a new fuel finder scheme and a fuel monitor in the UK. The UK government accepted those recommendations.
  2. The government’s proposed ‘Pumpwatch’ scheme will allow drivers to compare real-time fuel prices, via navigation apps, in-car devices and comparison websites.
  3. On 16 January 2024, DESNZ announced its amendment to the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill to provide the CMA with the necessary information-gathering powers to undertake the formal monitoring of the road fuels retail market (which is separate to the proposed Pumpwatch scheme).
  4. The CMA’s response to the DESNZ consultation on boosting competition in the road fuel market recommends the government presses ahead with implementing relevant legislation to fulfil the recommendations from the market study.
  5. All enquiries from journalists should be directed to the CMA press office by email on or by phone on 020 3738 6460.

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