A driver refuels at a gas station in Madrid, in a file image. EFE
Just over two months after the State definitively withdrew the subsidy of 20 cents per liter of gasoline and diesel, the oil companies are preparing to do the same with the 10 cents with which they supplemented that measure. Sources from the largest company in the sector in Spain, Repsol, confirm to EL PAÍS that the discount —which until now was only linked to its Waylet loyalty program— will be restricted from March 31 to customers who have also contracted other services (electricity, heating, solar, electric mobility…) with the company.
Although both Cepsa and BP continue to give no clues as to what they will do, in view of what happened at the end of December —when they extended the 10 cents after the central government eliminated the subsidy— everything indicates that they will follow in Repsol’s footsteps. . “We are assessing what to do, there is still no decision on the matter,” says a spokesman for the first. “We are evaluating different scenarios”, they point out from the second, which opens the door for the discount to become three cents, as before last spring the Executive began to apply the public subsidy.
“Repsol has always given discounts, although not universal, as in the last year, and it will continue giving them, although with the novelty that they will be offered to customers of all our energy products,” explains a company spokesperson. . “Customers will be able to benefit from savings of up to 20 cents per liter, depending on the number of products they consume and as long as they pay with Waylet,” he adds, while recalling that it was the first operator to establish these discounts voluntarily, on 16 March 2022, when the Russian invasion of Ukraine wreaked havoc on fuel prices.
At the end of December, when the Government confirmed that the 20-cent aid would not continue, the oil companies announced that they would extend their part “all winter”. In other words, until March 31, the deadline set by the three largest Spanish automotive fuel supply companies. If one of them were to stand out, its margins would suffer but —in return— it could scratch market share.
The operator with the largest number of service stations in Spain is Repsol, with almost 27% of the total. Cepsa has close to 12%. And BP and Galp, almost 6% and 5% respectively.
The rebate has caused a powerful shock in the fuel retail market. By being matched in price to their low-cost competitors, it has also allowed them to recover part of the market share that they had lost in recent years. At a cost, of course: 500 million euros in the case of Repsol, as highlighted in its latest results presentation. Money that it has been able to finance without problems thanks to the record performance of its exploration and production businesses, and —above all— refining. Now, after the reversal of the 20 cent bonus, low-cost service stations will once again be cheaper than branded ones.
Today, a liter of gasoline is paid at 1.62 euros on average in Spanish service stations, compared to 1.59 for diesel, according to the latest data from the European Union Oil Bulletin. A figure to which must be added, in the case of large ones, the discount of 10 cents still in force. A year ago, just before the Government launched the 20-cent subsidy and the large companies in the sector followed in its wake, the liter was paid —respectively— at 1.84 and 1.82 euros.
On December 14, the National Commission for Markets and Competition (CNMC) announced the opening of an investigation into Repsol, Cepsa and BP for possible anti-competitive practices in their discounts after several complaints from independent gas station operators. They accused the large oil groups of violating competition rules both with their “aggressive” discount policy for end customers and with the high prices applied in the wholesale sale of fuel (they are also suppliers of most of these independent gas stations, often private label). The combination of both factors, they argued, was driving smaller firms out of the market. The largest Spanish oil company, however, distances its decision from those investigations initiated by the regulator.
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