The German Competition Authority reports substantial differences in fuel prices at different petrol stations, exacerbated by the effects on oil prices by the COVID-19 pandemic

Substantial price differences at petrol stations - Bundeskartellamt publishes Annual Report of the Market Transparency Unit for Fuels*

The Bundeskartellamt has published its 2019 annual report on the work of its Market Transparency Unit for Fuels today.

Andreas Mundt, President of the Bundeskartellamt: “There are significant differences in the fuel prices charged by the various petrol stations, and prices change considerably and several times in the course of the day. This can result in a price difference of up to 20 cents per litre within a town or region. Staying informed and selecting cheaper petrol stations at specific times of the day can thus really save money. Prices are usually at their lowest in the evening between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. Comparing prices can also be worthwhile for business customers, even if they use fleet cards. In an example of a freight forwarder with five 40 ton trucks we calculated a savings potential of more than 12,000 euros per year.”

The Bundeskartellamt’s Market Transparency Unit for Fuels continuously monitors the trade in fuels, collects fuel prices from more than 14,750 petrol stations across Germany and passes them on to authorised consumer information services. Motorists can call up the information from a number of information service providers, both online and via mobile apps. The new annual report mainly focuses on the observations that could be made for 2019. Due to current circumstances the report also deals with the special developments of the past few months.

Andreas Mundt: “Apart from other factors, the effects of the corona crisis have also contributed to a significant fall in oil prices since early 2020. This development also involved a decline in petrol station prices, albeit with some deviations. In mid-April, the gap between the crude oil price and petrol station prices almost reached the level of early 2020 again.”

Results of the annual report:

  • At one and the same petrol station, average price differences of approx. 10 cents/litre can be observed every day. A comparison of all petrol stations in one town shows that there are even average price differences of up to approx. 20 cents/litre every day (see graphic chart attached). chart1
  • The average price differences between towns and rural areas are relatively low. Off-motorway service areas often charge somewhat higher prices (+2-4 cents/litre). Motorists refuelling at a motorway station must expect considerably higher prices (+20-25 cents/litre) (see graphic chart attached). chart2
  • Fuel prices are in most cases still at their highest in the mornings (approx. 5 to 8 a.m.) and at their lowest in the evenings (approx. 6 to 10 p.m.). In between these periods, prices on average vary significantly. More expensive suppliers, in particular, raise their prices again during the low-price period in the evenings, starting at around 7 p.m. Towards the night time prices are significantly raised by most of the petrol stations which are still open, and remain that high during the night (see graphic chart attached). chart3
  • The relative price position of the different petrol stations compared with each other is quite stable. "Cheap" petrol stations mostly remained relatively cheap. "Expensive" petrol stations mostly stayed relatively expensive.
  • There are only relatively minor price differences between the different regions in Germany. Apart from a few more expensive or cheaper regions, the annual average price difference amounts to only approx. 5 cents/litre. In spring/summer 2019, relatively high fuel prices could be observed in eastern Germany. Voices from the oil sector reported major disruptions in the supply of oil via the Druzhba pipeline caused by contaminated crude oil.
  • Again in 2019 fuel prices were not noticeably increased around Easter and Whitsunday.

The full report including further information and illustrative examples is available at the Bundeskartellamt’s website (in German only).

You will also find further Information on the Market Transparency Unit for Fuels (partly in English) and a list of authorised consumer information services on the website.

*This is the original title of the press release. The title above has been amended in order to match the e-Competitions format. Individual authors are welcome to provide original independent commentaries on the case law. Articles are subject to approval by the Board of e-Competitions Bulletin before publication based on the Editorial Policy (click here).

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German Competition Authority, The German Competition Authority reports substantial differences in fuel prices at different petrol stations, exacerbated by the effects on oil prices by the COVID-19 pandemic, 7 May 2020, e-Competitions May 2020, Art. N° 94794

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