As indicated by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne this weekend, the government will exceptionally authorize distributors to sell their fuel at a loss. What might this change for motorists?

Since the start of the school year, the government has been looking for solutions to try to stem the rise in fuel prices. It must be said that in two months prices have soared at the pump, contributing to keeping the inflation rate very high in France (4.8% over one year in August). Diesel rose 25 cents during the summer, selling on average today at 1.93 euros per liter. Unleaded 95 costs 13 cents more on average than in June. You have to pay 1.94 euros for each liter injected into the tank of your car.

After rejecting the idea of ​​relaunching the fuel check – aid of 100 euros granted to certain households deployed at the start of the year – the government obtained last week from the TotalEnergies group the extension of its price freeze at 1.99 euros beyond 2023. To go further, the power in place, through the voice of Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, announced during the weekend that it would soon authorize distributors to sell at a loss, which has been banned in France since 1963.

Concretely, this means that service station owners will be able to resell their fuel cheaper than they buy it. This measure, which is hoped to be implemented “at the beginning of December”, could last “six months and this will make it possible to find, depending on what distributors can do, cheaper fuels throughout France. That’s our objective’, confirmed this Monday morning Bruno Le Maire, the Minister of the Economy, in front of the France 2 cameras. In fact, it nevertheless remains quite difficult to imagine that distributors could carry out significant price reductions at the pump, for those for whom margins are already minimal on fuels, unlike those of the State.

As long as the price of a barrel increases, it is difficult to imagine significant reductions at the pump

This could nevertheless favor large distributors and supermarkets, who are most likely to sell at a loss since fuel remains more of a loss leader for them. Carrefour, Leclerc, Auchan, Intermarché and other Casinos could thus occasionally cut their prices on gasoline to attract more customers to their shopping stores. Which also explains the incomprehension, even anger, of small independent service stations for whom the sale of fuel remains the only source of income, unlike large-scale distribution.

On Sunday, the government spokesperson, Olivier Véran, had apparently already wanted to temper the ardor of those who fantasize about the idea of ​​a future sharp drop in prices at the pump. ”We are not saying that petrol will drop to 1.40 euros in all stations for six months, the former Minister of Health had warned. It is said that there may be commercial operations.” Problem for the government, and by extension for motorists, the price of a barrel of Brent has continued to rise in recent weeks, a consequence of the drop in production desired by the main oil-producing countries, with Saudi Arabia in the lead. However, as long as the cost of black gold increases, it appears difficult or even impossible for distributors to permanently display lower prices, even if only by a few cents compared to current prices, even by reselling less. Dear.

So, if the future law on resale at a loss were to be passed in the coming weeks, probably the major brands will be able to continue their promotional operations during the first half of the year 2024. But instead of operations “fuel at cost price”, perhaps they will be able to occasionally cut their prices, for a weekend for example, to attract customers. In the meantime, hopefully for consumers, prices will soon return to normal.