The UK Government has launched a consultation on plans to require filling stations to share real-time fuel price information.

The new Pumpwatch scheme would legally require forecourts to share live information on their pump prices within 30 minutes of any changes.

The government says this data will allow tech companies to develop ways for fuel prices to be compared via mobile apps, online mapping platforms, journey planning tools, price comparison websites and in-vehicle devices.

The scheme will follow on from an interim, voluntary programme which has seen 12 of the biggest retailers sharing daily prices with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).  This was introduced after a report last year revealed some retailers had failed to pass on falling oil prices.

The new consultation also covers some elements of the CMA’s new role in monitoring the fuel market, including the topics the CMA will focus on, the frequency of reporting, and support to help businesses with the CMA’s information requests.

Energy Security Secretary Claire Coutinho said: “We are forcing retailers to share live information on their prices within 30 minutes of any change in price, helping drivers to find the best deal at the pump. 

“This will put motorists back in the driving seat and bring much-needed competition back to the forecourts.”

Responding to the launch of the consultation, Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) executive director Gordon Balmer said: “The PRA has been actively engaged in collaborative efforts with the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero and the CMA to enhance fuel price transparency.

“PRA members operate in a highly competitive market on razor-thin margins. I am pleased to see the Government’s release of the road fuel transparency consultation, and we will continue to support them as they develop their final scheme. 

“It is important that motorists have the ability to shop around and find the best deals available to them. The PRA will be responding to this consultation to ensure that the final fuel price transparency scheme is reliable and easy for both consumers and retailers to use.

“The PRA remains dedicated to fostering transparency and fair practices in the fuel industry, working collaboratively with relevant authorities to achieve a balanced and effective fuel price transparency initiative.”

RAC spokesman Simon Williams said: “This is a really important day as it should pave the way for fairer fuel pricing for everyone who drives.

“Sadly, there have been far too many occasions where drivers have lost out at the pumps when wholesale prices have fallen significantly and those reductions haven’t been passed on quickly enough or fully enough by retailers.

“We badly need to see competition in the wider market match that of Northern Ireland where fuel prices are consistently 5p cheaper.”

AA president Edmund King said: “The AA commends the government for addressing the issue of unfair pump prices that we have been raising for some time. The brazen price disparity of sometimes 10p a litre or more between neighbouring towns had to end. 

“Pumping up profits by hanging on to the savings from lower fuel costs while consumers, businesses and inflation were denied the relief was quite simply unforgivable.

“The government’s proposal should stimulate fairer pricing through free market competition and takes advantage of latest information technology. It gives leeway to fuel retailers to price according to their circumstances but, by directing motoring consumers to where they can get their fuel at a better price, keeps competitive pressure on the trade.”