Morrisons petrol less than £1 a litre – could other retailers follow suit?

Published: 11 May 2020

► Lockdown fuel prices continue to drop
► Morrisons first to fall below £1 a litre
► Oil prices at an 18-year low

Morrisons has become the first major retailer to drop the price of petrol to less than £1 a litre. Petrol now costs a maximum of 99.7p per litre across the supermarket chain’s 337 forecourts, with diesel down to a maximum of 104.7p per litre.

The fall in fuel prices is a response to the similar drop in the price of crude oil. A barrel of Brent Crude – the benchmark used by Europe – now costs just over $20 a barrel, its lowest since 2002. That’s down to both a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, and a steep drop in demand due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

And with Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing that lockdown restrictions are beginning to ease – including the ban on driving to a destination in order to exercise – more motorists are placed to benefit from the low fuel costs. That’s not forgetting the scores of key workers and healthcare professionals who continue to commute to work by car.

Further reading on the COVID-19 pandemic:

Coronavirus - advice for drivers

Traffic down to pre-1955 levels

Car sales collapse 97% in April

Motoring organisations delighted

Naturally, consumer organisations are pleased with the news, which they say is long overdue. Fuel prices typically take a while to correspond to the price of crude oil, a move which many say is merely a way for forecourts to increase their profit margins.

Howard Cox, founder of FairFuelUK, said 'It’s shocking that supermarkets have not gone below £1 by now. This honest milestone is way overdue.

'Average UK filling-up costs are still, shockingly, 8-12p per litre higher than necessary, showing the Covid-19 fuel supply chain rip-off of motorists is still running amok.'

The average price for petrol and diesel in the UK still stands at 108.7p and 114.3p per litre of petrol and diesel respectively, according to RAC FuelWatch.

Man filling up with fuel

The RAC’s fuel spokesperson, Simon Williams, said that Morrisons pricing was far more reflective of what the retailer itself was paying. 'Credit is due to Morrisons for taking the lead and selling petrol and diesel at what is a very fair price,' he said.

'Unfortunately, though, there is a darker side to any large price cuts – they heap yet more pressure on smaller independent fuel retailers, who in some cases are already fighting for survival as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.'

Will it last?

Oil prices have already begun to creep upwards once more, and both FairFuelUK and the RAC warn that these low prices on forecourts may not remain in place for very long.

Simon Williams said: 'It remains to be seen how long prices this low will persist for, with some early indications that wholesale petrol prices have started to rise as a result of the world oil price creeping up.'

By Tom Wiltshire

Bauer Automotive staff writer; Cotswoldian, Peugeot enthusiast, SsangYong Turismo apologist