Competition rules out that gas stations take advantage of the bonus to raise prices

A driver refuels at a service station. / CR

Considers that the margins obtained by the oil companies since the beginning of the war in Ukraine are no different from those applied in recent years

Jose Maria Waiter

The service stations are not taking advantage of the application of the discount of 20 euro cents per liter authorized by the Government to raise the price of fuel and generate more income. That is, at least, the conclusion reached by the National Commission of Markets and Competition (CNMC), through the periodic reports that it prepares after supervising the costs until the month of May.

With the information collected so far, the Commission concludes that in general "the fuel distribution market through service stations seems to be transferring the discount to the consumer". The report also highlights that "it does not rule out" that "an individual service station has absorbed a part" of the Government's aid and has increased its margins. But, he adds, they are specific cases and not in a generalized way.

This conclusion comes after the suspicions warned by consumer associations and even the remark made by Vice President Nadia Calviño towards the oil companies, warning them that if they took advantage of this situation, action would be taken against them.

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However, Competition considers that "the margins accumulated in the first five months of this year are very similar to the average gross margin of 2021," they indicate in the body chaired by Cani Fernández. "And this despite the fact that this year there are new obligations in terms of fuel," they add. This average margin is 11.2% for each liter of gasoline and more than 14% for diesel, percentages similar to those of last year, before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The CNMC warns that the high volatility of international fuel prices "advises caution" when evaluating the behavior of fuel prices and the profits generated by companies until last May. Because "they register oscillations both upwards and downwards, depending on the month evaluated."

The data accumulated in this first week of July already point to a change of context, at least for now, in terms of fuels. After a barrel of Brent has fallen by 20% in a week to 100 dollars, fuel prices are beginning to reflect these declines but slowly. It is the fear of the so-called 'rocket and boom effect': the perception that prices rise rapidly and gradually fall.

In this sense, the CNMC points out that what there is "is a lag" between the moment in which oil falls and that reality is reflected in the pump. “With the volatilities that exist right now, it is impossible” to transfer it quickly, almost instantly, they point out in the body.

The average price of diesel and gasoline has fallen slightly this week in Spain, although both fuels remain above two euros per liter, a level they have exceeded for several weeks. Specifically, the average price of a liter of gasoline this week stood at 2.112 euros, after registering a drop of 0.75% compared to seven days ago, according to data from the European Union Oil Bulletin. In this way, it has already accumulated two consecutive weeks of declines.

In the case of diesel, the average price per liter has stood this week at 2.076 euros, after registering a drop of 1.14%, making it the first time it has been relaxed since the end of May.

That average amount includes taxes, but does not reflect the discount that came into force since last April 1 of at least 20 cents per liter, since there are higher discounts, depending on the oil company and the promotions for loyal customers.

Counting on this subsidy, the price of a liter of gasoline would be 9 cents more expensive than in the last week of March (1,818 euros), before the discount began to be applied, with which the increase in prices registered by this fuel since then has totally absorbed the aid.

As for diesel, when applying the reduction of 20 cents per liter, its amount would be almost four cents higher than the price it marked at the end of March (1,837 euros per liter).

Compared to the same week a year ago, the average price of a liter of gasoline has become 51.83% more expensive, while in the case of diesel it is 65.55% more expensive, although without taking into account the bonus currently in force.

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