Motoring association the RAC warned that the situation could worsen as retailers pass on the cost of rising wholesale prices and in opportunistic retailers cash in on panic-buyers
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UK fuel prices have reached their highest level in eight years, with a further jump expected as wholesale energy costs continue to surge amid desperate calls for drivers to stop panic-buying.
The average price of a litre of petrol rose from 135.9p on Friday to 136.6p on Sunday, the highest level since September 2013.
Oil prices also rose for the fifth straight day on Monday, with the price of Brent crude hitting almost £58 a barrel, the highest since October 2018.
Motoring group the AA warned that prices could rise further this autumn as the global oil price surges with increased demand.
But it said drivers and businesses will be most be hurt most by a 5p rise in the wholesale price of diesel since early September.
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The RAC said current UK averages are 136.69p for petrol and 138.58p for diesel, and anything higher could mean you’re being overcharged.
Simon Williams, the RAC’s fuel spokesperson, said drivers are now facing a “pretty bleak picture”.
“With the cost of oil rising and now near a three-year high, wholesale prices are being forced up which means retailers are paying more than they were just a few days ago for the same amount of fuel,” he said.
“This has led to the price of a litre of unleaded already going up by a penny since Friday. We might yet see higher forecourt prices in the coming days, irrespective of the current supply problems.”
The rise comes as households face a triple blow of increases, with energy bills rising in October as furlough ends and a £20 a week cut to Universal Credit kicks in.
The Bank of England has separately warned that higher energy costs would push inflation above 4% this winter, hitting even food prices.
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Labour said the combined effects of the energy crisis, benefit cuts and tax rises had caused a “perfect storm” that would disproportionately hurt working families.
Jonathan Reynolds, the shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “It is not too late for the government to change course, cancel their cut to universal credit and back struggling families this winter.”
Major fuel retailers, including BP, Shell and Esso, issued a statement on Monday evening suggesting queues at forecourts were likely to ease.
“There is plenty of fuel at UK refineries and terminals, and as an industry we are working closely with the government to help ensure fuel is available to be delivered to stations across the country,” they said.
“As many cars are now holding more fuel than usual, we expect that demand will return to its normal levels in the coming days, easing pressures on fuel station forecourts. We would encourage everyone to buy fuel as they usually would.”
Hoyer, which delivers petrol for BP, also urged motorists to stop panic buying. The German-owned company said: “We are 100% focused on our delivery operations and deliveries are getting through nationwide.
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“However, as long as people continue to buy or store fuel that they don’t need then it will be difficult to replenish sites. We once again urge people to calm down, fuel up when they need to and the situation will then be able to recover.”
Figures from HSBC UK suggested Friday was the busiest day for spending at petrol stations in recent memory.
Payments increased by 50% from the same day a week earlier, according to the bank’s data, with consumers spending just over £30 on average compared with just over £20 for a normal Friday.