Motoring groups have called for an end to the “pump price postcode lottery” and demanded that retailers “immediately” ease pressure on drivers by passing on a drop in wholesale prices.
Prices can vary wildly in Devon and Cornwall where vehicle ownership is regarded as a necessity, particularly in rural areas which are not well served by public transport.
AA president Edmund King said the disparity in the cost of petrol between neighbouring towns was a key issue affecting motorists at the forecourt.
“Last weekend, supermarket petrol in some towns was 5p a litre more expensive than supermarket petrol in another town just down the road,” Mr King said.
“Why many drivers have to pay at least £2.50 a tank more for the cheapest fuel in their area is beyond the understanding of everyone except supermarkets and the fuel industry.
“The falling price of oil and stronger pound is cutting the cost of fuel but the new reality is that market volatility could easily push it the other way.
“The pump price postcode lottery is a persistent menace and the AA is now providing millions of its members with a smartphone tool to compare prices between towns and vote for fair fuel prices with their wheels.”
The RAC said a litre of unleaded petrol sold wholesale for 6p less since the end of August, while diesel was down by 2p a litre, giving petrol stations the power to lower prices on the forecourt.
The car services company explained lower prices were due to a drop in oil prices since Syria agreed to sign an international treaty banning chemical weapons and the pound reaching a seven-month high against the dollar.
Tim Jones, chairman of the Devon and Cornwall Business Council, said fuel prices remained one of the biggest issues facing the Westcountry’s “Cinderella economy”.
“The big fuel companies very much exploit that we are totally vulnerable, particularly on the strategic road network,” Mr Jones said. “It is a major drag on having an efficient and thriving economy.
“It hits businesses on the bottom line big time and is a major deterrent to encouraging people to employing new people which would mean getting them off benefits.
“We need the Government to recognise the regional variations in pricing and deliver the 5p a litre fuel discount we absolutely need.”
The calls came as figures showed inflation was down to 2.7%, partly due to a slow down in petrol pump rises. Prices rose 2p a litre compared with a rise of 3.5p in the same month last year, according to the Consumer Price Index.
Pete Williams, from the RAC, said: “If fuel retailers want the motoring public to fully trust they are operating fairly and transparently they should reflect the drop in wholesale prices immediately by cutting pump prices by up to 5p a litre for unleaded and 2p a litre for diesel.
“While supermarket promotions based on money spent in-store in return for a 5p a litre discount coupon at the pumps are beneficial, these are very often only used by retailers at times when the wholesale price of fuel has eased.
“It would be far better for all fuel retailers to cut the prices so everyone can benefit. We realise this will mean less margin for the retailer, but the goodwill it creates through transparency would be beneficial in the longer term.
“Motorists are very aware that prices seem to go up far faster than they come down so this really is the time for the fuel retail industry to demonstrate that that’s not the case.”