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End these postcode lottery fuel prices, supermarkets are urged

By Claire McNeilly

Two of Northern Ireland’s leading retailers have once again come under fire for the way they charge motorists in a fuel price postcode lottery.

Tesco and Sainsbury’s have now been urged to drop their regional pricing policies — where the cost of filling up depends on which forecourt you visit.

The news comes after the Consumer Council added its weight to the Belfast Telegraph’s campaign to stamp out the geographical price variations.

In recent months this paper has repeatedly exposed the sometimes staggering price variations that exist across forecourts in Northern Ireland.

And now the Consumer Council has said it wants retailers to put an end to the policy whereby customers in Ballymena and Belfast, for example, are paying more for fuel than those in Bangor or Coleraine.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last night, Eleanor Gill of the Consumer Council — which conducted its own supermarket pricing survey — said that enough is enough.

"The Belfast Telegraph has been at the forefront of investigating the petrol price deals available at Northern Ireland filling stations,” she said.

“As a result, the Consumer Council has delved into the practices of the major supermarkets at this point in time .

“This, together with the work of the Belfast Telegraph on the wide price of fuel, gives a very comprehensive picture to consumers of how we are being treated when we go about the costly job of filling our cars.”

She added: “We will continue to monitor this marketplace so that consumers are kept fully informed."

Research undertaken by the Consumer Council has revealed that the cost of a litre of petrol and diesel at Tesco can vary by as much as 5p depending on where you shop.

Motorists filling up in Bangor, for example, only pay 108.9p for every litre of petrol and 121.9p for diesel, compared with drivers who stop at Tesco in Dungannon where petrol and diesel costs 113.9p and 124.9p respectively.

Similarly, in Antrim, petrol costs 112.9p and diesel 124.9p, while Tesco in Lisburn is charging 111.9p and 123.9p respectively.

Over at Sainsbury’s, customers in Coleraine are forking out 109.9p per litre for petrol and 121.9p for diesel, compared to their counterparts in Craigavon, Belfast (Forestside) and Lisburn, who are paying 119.9p and 123.9p.

“Tesco and Sainsbury’s must stop this punishing local pricing and play fair by all consumers,” Ms Gill said.

“The Consumer Council believes that this practice is blatantly unfair.

The supermarkets must now stop this punishing pricing policy and play fair

“Unlike Asda, who offer the same price to all consumers in all their petrol stations, Tesco and Sainsbury’s need to explain to their customers why their pricing policy for petrol is different from their pricing policy on food where their customers pay the same no matter where they live.”

A Tesco spokeswoman last night said that prices at their petrol stations are checked against their competitors daily.

“We are confident that the local customer is getting a great deal on fuel,”she said.

Sainsbury’s said fuel is priced locally and competitively and compares favourably with prices set by other retailers in the immediate area.

“In addition, the retailer recently dropped the price of petrol and diesel by up to 2p per litre on its 6 petrol forecourts across Northern Ireland,” she said.

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