Demand has spiked at TotalEnergies petrol stations in France since the increased September discount began, leading to stock shortages and objections from competing suppliers.
On September 1, the government’s 18-cent-per-litre fuel discount increased to 30 cents for every litre, and Total’s reduction rose to 20 cents in all of its 3,500 petrol stations, rather than motorway service stations alone.
After having risen above €2 per litre on several occasions, the price of SP95 has fallen to around €1.34 and that of diesel has come down to approximately €1.50 in participating stations.
Total has said that this can mean a saving of around €25 on a 50-litre purchase.
Customers who were resisting filling up in August so as to benefit from this increased discount have now created a surge in demand at Total petrol stations.
Some such stations have been running out of stock within hours, and the authorities have had to intervene to maintain order as tempers frayed in long queues, Le Figaro reports.
Certain customers have also been filling up jerry cans as well as their fuel tanks, to make the most of the savings.
“They have gone mad. It is useless stockpiling because this promotion will last for two months,” Francis Pousse, who is president of the petrol station branch of motoring organisation Mobilians, told BFM Business.
“These people are making shortages more likely. Around me in Le Mans, there are no more Total petrol stations open: they are out of fuel.”
Drivers have taken to social media to complain about those filling up more than their car, and some petrol stations have decided to ration people to 50 litres each.
Competitors struggle to keep up
Suppliers other than Total have observed a drop in customer numbers, as people look for the best discount they can find.
In Corsica, several Esso stations have suspended distribution because of a lack of customers, with their managers criticising the company’s decision not to follow Total’s discount price.
La station Esso de Calvi suspend sa distribution de carburant à la suite du refus d'Esso France d'octroyer une remise de 20 centimes d'euros pour lutter contre l'offre de Total énergie— Corse-Matin (@Corse_Matin) September 3, 2022
Crystal Pictures pic.twitter.com/ke4lcagUmj
“Damage will be done. In these stations, we are estimating that 30-40% of [customer] volume has been lost,” Francis Pousse said. “The ones suffering the most are in rural and periurban areas, which are the most vulnerable.”
He added that: “This gift to consumers [from Total] is, in reality, a negotiation with the government to avoid a tax on their super-profits.
“Others, such as Esso and BP, cannot align with it because these service stations are supplied by wholesalers.”
Mr Pousse has called for the government to take action to help smaller and independent petrol stations, and prevent them from potentially having to suspend distribution.
“It’s very complicated because, unlike Total, which is a French group and which pays some taxes in France, the Exxon Esso group [for example,] does not pay tax in France.
“It therefore has no reason to introduce the same discount because there is not the same pressure,” he told Franceinfo.
Total has said that its discount is a response to “the expectations of people in France affected by rising energy prices and their impact on buying power.”
The supplier has been organising additional deliveries to make up for stock shortages in petrol stations.
The heightened 50-cent discount at Total stations will last until October 31. On November 1, both the TotalEnergies and the government reductions will drop to 10 cents per litre, bringing the total saving available down to 20 cents per litre in Total stations, and 10 cents per litre elsewhere.