Most prominently we had ASDA announcing a 1p or 2p cut every few days, with the other supermarkets then following on. ASDA already have a clever little ruse already in that they always charge 0.2p less than their local rivals (ie. 109.7), so that they can boast about having the cheapest fuel prices.
Then we had all of the speculation in the wider press of the “How low can it go?” variety, with constant speculation about unleaded hitting £1 a litre and so-called experts counselling that it was highly unlikely due to the percentage of the overall price that is made up by duty and VAT.
At this point the owner of a filling station in Birmingham decided to grab the limelight and reduced his petrol to 99.9p per litre, sparking a media frenzy that saw him on the Today Programme and the 10 O’Clock News, as well as in most national papers. At this point, however, the oil price began to rise again and it all went strangely silent.
Since then, prices have climbed by around 5p, but the media doesn’t seem that interested in telling us about it, despite the mad race to the bottom attracting so much attention just a few weeks ago. This is interesting because rising prices arguably interest people more and they could have a damaging effect on the national economic picture if they continue.
The other factor to consider is the local effect of petrol pricing. For example, there is a BP station close to my home that is always 3p more than the cheapest price available locally. They are always the first to put their prices up and the last to put them down. The worst thing they did, however, was to push their prices up by 5p a litre a few years ago when there were rumours of impending fuel shortages. For these reasons, I never ever go there.
So how many people actually care about these things? It seems to me that the only thing us Brits discuss more than petrol prices these days is the weather. Some of us generally couldn’t care less and we’ll fill up to a motorway service station charging 10p per litre more than the average without even noticing, but most of us do take note and we are prepared to shop around, something which people like my local petrol station owner would do well to remember.