Petrol and diesel at the white pumps: because filling up costs less

Refuel at a branded distributor or a no logo? Here’s when and why it can be convenient

Alexander Conti

– Milan

With petrol and diesel prices soaring does it make sense to refuel at the white pumps to save money? In Italy there are about 22,000 refueling stations, of which roughly 450 are on the motorway. Of these, around 7,000 distributors do not have the big company brands in their signs, i.e. they are white pumps.

brand or not, the differences

This type of distributor has a competitive advantage over branded plants, i.e. it can buy fuel from whoever it wants. The mechanism makes economic sense as long as the refinery to be reached with the tanker is within a maximum radius of 100-150 km from its distributor. Instead, explains Gabriele Masini director of the energy warhead Daily Relay, “whoever has a brand buys almost all of it from the company with which it is linked”. The petrol stations of the big companies, continues Masini, are linked to the companies by various types of contracts. Generally speaking, the manufacturer owns the system and grants it exclusive management on the condition that it is branded. “Some contracts have pre-set minimum volumes”, continues Masini. All of this, in fact, does not concern the owners and managers of the white pumps who, day by day, can decide who to contact as long as there are several refineries or suppliers in their area and therefore there is competition on prices.

price differences

This diversity of approach is reflected in the costs that the consumer will pay by refueling. “In the last 5-6 years, the difference in self-service price between white and house pumps is around one cent per litre. The situation per served is different, with variations ranging on average from 10 to 20 cents per litre”, he explains the director of Daily Relay. It should also be added that white pumps usually make no difference in price between self service and served.

quality and crime

Another widespread concern among consumers is the quality of the fuels dispensed by no logo distributors. It largely depends on the cleaning of the tanks which is a possible problem that concerns all systems, logo and no-logo. As regards the presence of organized crime in the sector, it has exploded since 2012 as a result of the liberalizations introduced by the Monti government. Basically, the criminal organizations evading VAT through artifices implemented unfair competition by selling to the consumer at very low prices. This phenomenon, which had reached worrying proportions, was partially countered by investigations and trials but also by some fundamental restrictions introduced in the budget laws in recent years.