Northern Ireland motorists are paying more for petrol than anywhere else in the UK — for the fifth month running.
New figures just out have also shown a dramatic turnaround in diesel prices at the pumps, from the cheapest to the second most expensive region.
The AA July Fuel Report has |revealed an average of 103.8p a litre for unleaded and 104.6p for diesel, pushing prices here above the respective UK averages of 102.95p and 104.06p.
Soaring costs mean drivers across the province continue to feel the pinch at the pumps — despite oil prices having fallen to $63 a barrel yesterday from $72 last month.
But AA spokesman Luke Bosdet said motorists everywhere should soon see prices starting to drop.
“There has been a reduction in the wholesale price of petrol over the past fortnight,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.
“The AA is expecting average petrol prices to fall by around 3p over the coming weeks.
“Since the last two weeks in June, there has been a $10 drop in the price of oil from a high of $72 and that should be passed on to consumers.
“A penny cut in the price of petrol per litre represents a saving of 50p each time a tank is filled, which really makes a difference to drivers — especially given the |current economic downturn.”
The cost of unleaded petrol in Northern Ireland tipped back over the £1-a-litre mark in May, having dipped below 85p earlier in the year.
In stark contrast, diesel was cheaper here than in any other UK region between March and May.
Prices crept up slightly in June, however, and now only Londonders pay more.
Last month, this newspaper |reported the emergence of a new trend at local forecourts, where some are charging the same amount for both fuels.
And while that news is unwelcome for petrol users, it brings relief to diesel car owners who last summer were forced to stump up to 13p a litre more at Ulster pumps.
Among the conclusions drawn from the July Fuel Report was that while the retail giants generally charge less, they offer non-uniform savings to customers.
Mr Bosdet said that supermarket petrol prices are over 1.5p a litre cheaper than non-supermarket outlets, while the average price of diesel can differ by over 2p.
But the watchdog spokesman said there was an opportunity for independent retailers to outdo their rivals.
“Last year, the independents took on supermarkets by offering competitive fuel prices,” he said.
“It’s whether or not they’re |prepared to take a stance again and undercut them on the forecourts.
“If they have the ability to drop prices, they probably have a major opportunity to cash in on one or two major supermarkets.”
Asda introduced a uniform price of 99.9p for petrol and diesel at all seven local forecourts last week.
Tesco and Sainsbury’s operate a regional policy where fuel prices depend on the geographical location of the forecourt.
However, both offer 99.9p tarrifs at some Northern Ireland filling stations.