Ministers are keen to force petrol stations to display their fuel prices on motorway signs so that drivers can choose whether to pull in and refuel. They could also force petrol stations to show the fuel prices of the next two providers on the route.
“The problem on the motorway is that the fuel prices are only advertised on the forecourt. That is the legal requirement. But by the time you’ve pulled off the motorway and stopped, it is often more trouble than it’s worth to go on to the next service station, particularly as you’ve got no idea whether it will be any cheaper,” a Downing Street source said.
It’s hoped the system could evolve into one the French already use, whereby motorway signs also reveal the prices for the next two fuel providers along the motorway. This would allow drivers to make an informed decision about whether to stop or push on for a better deal.
While the idea is a noble one, having signs that show the prices of your nearest competitors is only of benefit as long as the petrol stations don’t collude to fix their prices at a certain level.
There’s already evidence to suggest motorway services are doing just that. Research by the Office of Fair Trading found the pence-per-litre cost of petrol on the motorway was, on average, 7.5p higher than on the high street. Diesel was similarly expensive, averaging at 8.3p higher than usual. Fill up your car with sixty litres of petrol and that’s an extra £4.50.
In the meantime, there’s plenty you can do to find a better fuel deal until the new signs are introduced. Do yourself a favour and download one of the many apps out there, such as PetrolPrices Pro, that show you where to find the best fuel prices. Or get yourself a satnav that can do the same job.