In a two-week-long investigation into fuel prices, a 3ppl price differential was found, on the same day, and on three separate occasions, in stores across the country, with shoppers being charged from 107.9p to 110.9p for a litre of unleaded. Diesel prices varied by 2p per litre.
As the pictures show, an Asda shopper filling up at an Asda in Watford on Wednesday, for example, enjoyed the low price of 107.9ppl, while fellow Asda shoppers in Yeovil had to cough up 110.9ppl. And on the same day, shoppers in Coventry were paying 109.9ppl – while just 10 miles away in Asda Leamington Spa customers were charged 108.9ppl.
An Asda spokeswoman admitted the retailer did vary prices but only to compete on a local basis.
“When we drop prices, we drop them to a maximum national price so our customers know they won’t pay any more at an Asda petrol pump,” she said. “However, when prices are rising, we watch the prices of our competitors at every single one of our stores to make sure we’re always the last in town to put prices up to their new maximum level.”
And she maintained that the retailer continued to operate a national policy and set the lowest price cap of all the retailers, as well as offering the smallest range in pricing, which was normally no more than 2p per litre, with the majority of stores carrying the same price.
In an earlier mystery shop, carried out on Tuesday, Asda stores across the country carried four separate price points. Just one store, Watford, was 107.9ppl, while 41 stores were selling at 108.9ppl, 61 at 109.9ppl and 11 at 110.9ppl.
The previous Thursday, two were charging 107.9ppl, 32 offered 108.9ppl, 69 were selling at 109.9ppl and 12 were carrying the higher 110.9ppl price.
Asda has used its national fuel policy to grab the headlines and bash its rivals at regular intervals over the past several years.
Last July, responding to Marc Bolland’s announcement that Morrisons would continue to compete locally on fuel, Asda’s chief merchandising officer Darren Blackhurst branded his rival’s policy as “shameful”.
“Why should he dictate which parts of the country have higher or lower prices?” he asked. “When we reduce the price of petrol, it happens nationally.”
One rival reacted angrily to The Grocer’s findings.
“Local pricing of petrol has always been a competitive feature of the market and Asda has misled consumers by claiming to have a national price while cynically charging several different prices around the country,” he said.
“The mask has slipped, dealing a serious blow to Andy Bond’s much-trumpeted campaign for trust and transparency.”
Supermarket petrol up to 5p a litre cheaper (18 December 2009)
Morrisons fuel price freeze branded a ‘stunt’ by rivals (1 September 2009)
Asda moves again to cut petrol price (3 December 2008)
Read Asda's official response to our investigation here.
Do The Grocer's findings make a mockery of Asda's 'national' pricing claim? Click 'Post comment' to have your say.