The competition watchdog is to investigate whether “any failure in competition” is leaving consumers paying higher grocery and fuel prices than they should be, it has announced.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it had not seen evidence pointing to specific competition concerns in the grocery sector “at this stage”, but it was “important to be sure that weak competition is not adding to the problems”.
However, the watchdog also announced an update on the Road Fuel market study it began last year, saying that indications were that higher pump prices could not be attributed solely to factors outside the control of the retailers and “appear in part to reflect some weakening of competition in the road fuel retail market”.
Evidence indicated that fuel margins had increased in particular for supermarkets over the past four years, with average 2022 supermarket pump prices appearing to be around 5p per litre more expensive than they would have been had their average percentage margins remained at 2019 levels.
Chief executive Sarah Cardell said: “We are not satisfied that all the supermarkets have been sufficiently forthcoming with the evidence they have provided in our Road Fuel market study, so we will be calling them in for formal interviews to get to the bottom of what is going on.
“It is a priority for the CMA to publish a full and final report, including recommendations for action, by the beginning of July.”
The action comes with inflation at 10.1pc, more than five times the Bank of England’s target, having been in double digits since August last year.
Food prices rose by 19.1pc in the year to March, rising at their fastest pace in 45 years.