Petrol stations in France criticised for alleged high profit margins

But fuel distributors have hit back saying that running a petrol garage is expensive and they only make a ‘few cents of profit per litre’

View of four pumps (green, blue, orange and yellow) at a petrol station
A customer association is criticising petrol stations for making high profits at the pump
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A consumer group has alleged profit margins at French petrol stations are excessively high.

Consommation, logement et cadre de vie (CLCV) said prices had remained above normal despite inflation easing.

It attacked the gross profit margins, which is the difference between the pre-tax price of petrol sold at the pump and its price when it leaves the refinery.

“Last April, these margins were €0.27 per litre for SP 95 petrol and €0.29 for diesel. However, normally these margins are around €0.15 to €0.18,” François Carlier, the general delegate of CLCV, told the daily newspaper Le Parisien.

He added that in June the situation had still not returned to normal as “these same margins were €0.25 per litre for SP 95 and €0.23 for diesel".

Picture credit: CLCV

Does not reflect reality

But France’s petrol distributors have hit back. One stakeholder told Le Parisien that the figures do not correspond to the distributor’s actual profit.

The stakeholder, wanting to remain anonymous, claimed the costs of running a petrol station are not considered in the CLCV’s figures: “The electricity, maintenance, rents and even salary costs”. Adding that afterwards “there is only a few cents per litre left”.

Petrol station running costs are even higher due to the Certificats d’économies d’énergie (CEE) which mean petrol station owners must carry out work to increase energy efficiency. According to petrol station chain TotalEnergies, these works now add around 7.5 cents per litre to fuel prices at the pump.

Moreover, the prices of biofuels are very high due to the increase in agricultural raw materials since the war in Ukraine. France is the country that incorporates the most biofuel into its fuel, TotalEnergies said.

Finally, the embargo on petroleum products from Russia, also following the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, has had an impact, said distributors. Petroleum products from Russia were cheaper than from the new suppliers France has found.

Read also: Experts on why France is bucking EU trend of falling petrol prices

Tips on keeping your fuel costs down

Here is some advice to keep the price of running your vehicle down:

  • Drive more slowly - going from 110 km/h (70mph) to 100 km/h (60 mph) cuts fuel consumption by 10%

  • Use the accelerator sparingly

  • Remove unneeded junk from the interior and the boot

  • Ensure your tyres are fully inflated - this can boost fuel efficiency by around 3%.

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