23 January 2019

Canberra's fuel rip-off: Libs promise to trial real-time petrol pricing

| Ian Bushnell
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Petrol pricing

Canberra’s petrol prices are among the highest in the country.

The Canberra Liberals say they will trial real-time monitoring of petrol prices to help bring down the price of fuel in the Territory, if they win Government next year.

Opposition Leader Alistair Coe said ACT motorists were being ripped off and accused the Government of refusing to do anything about it.

The NRMA agrees and has been calling for the ACT to replicate the NSW FuelCheck legislation introduced in 2016, which requires all service stations to post their prices in real time so they can be available to the public through the Government website and app, and the NRMA app.

But the ACT Government says there is no guarantee that such schemes have any impact on fuel prices and may, in fact, be counterproductive.

Mr Coe said Canberra was among the most expensive places in Australia to buy fuel, with the average price on Monday for unleaded petrol around 145.9c per litre compared to 125.2c per litre in NSW.

“In Belconnen it’s 146.4 per litre compared to 112.5 in Bowral – that’s 33 cents per litre more,” he said.

Mr Coe said that in 2001, the Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission had recommended the introduction of a public information system to monitor petrol prices, but Labor had repeatedly refused to take action.

He said he would also write to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to request an investigation into Canberra’s petrol prices.

“We don’t believe it’s fair that Canberrans have to pay 20 to 30 cents more per litre than other Australians,” he said.

“That may mean Canberrans are paying about $20 more than the rest of the country to fill up the tank. We need to make petrol more affordable for all Canberrans.”

Alistair Coe believes ACT motorists were being ripped off and accused the Government of refusing to do anything about it. Photo: Daniella Jukic.

Mr Coe said real-time monitoring of fuel prices would improve transparency of the system and encourage healthy competition among retailers.

“Petrol retailers will be required to report changes to fuel prices by 6 am every morning. After fuel prices have been locked in, they will not be allowed to rise in a 24-hour period,” he said.

“Other jurisdictions that have introduced real-time price checking such as NSW or WA clearly have a more affordable fuel market.

“A real-time fuel watch will help make Canberra’s fuel market more stable, predictable and transparent. This is a simple step that could make a real difference in people’s lives.”

But Chief Minister Andrew Barr said petrol prices were already available on the Petrol Spy app and Canberrans would have to foot the bill for duplicating it with a Government-run fuelwatch scheme.

“We know from Petrol Spy that fuel is cheaper in Fyshwick, Pialligo and Majura Park. Motorists can save between 10c and 25c a litre at the Caltex, Metro and Costco service stations in those areas,” he said.

Mr Barr acknowledged that price gouging and market failures were hurting ACT motorists but the ACCC had warned that 24-hour notification rules could actually reduce competition because they meant a supplier who discovered their prices was a little higher than another nearby could not lower them for at least a day.

“This is a risk that would have to be addressed in any 24-hour price-fixing scheme operating in the ACT,” he said.

Mr Barr said he had written to the ACCC many times for it to review the ACT market and welcomed bipartisan support, calling on local MPs and Senators to also lobby the competition watchdog.

NRMA spokesperson Peter Khoury said crowdsourcing apps such as Petrol Spy were unreliable and not backed by law.

“Nothing is as comprehensive as the legislation introduced in NSW, and nothing is backed by law and potential fines if service stations aren’t posting the right prices,” he said.

Mr Khoury said the scheme had made a difference in NSW, with the gap between the wholesale and retail price of petrol closing by 2.5 cents a litre in Sydney compared with other capitals, and 1.5-2 cents in regional areas.

“Once you start to shine a light on the local market and add more transparency by forcing every service station to post their pricing in real time, you’re also encouraging competition,” he said.

And Canberra was in desperate need of competition, he said.

“Canberra is more expensive than regional town in NSW with a fraction of the population. And it’s been allowed to go on for too long,” Mr Khoury said.

“We can’t force people to open service stations, but what we do want to do is make the ones that are there work harder for our members’ money.”

“And we can do that by increasing transparency [and] putting the information in the hands of the public. Hopefully, that encourages more people who are going to look for choice, then that may encourage more people to enter the market.”

He said other states were following NSW’s lead, such as Queensland and South Australia.

“Why the ACT hasn’t done it is beyond me,” he said.

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There was a report in the Southside chronicle many years ago blaming the supermarket chains for causing the closure of Rivett, Fisher, Chapman and Waramanga Petrol stations. With Duffy owner also saying it wasn’t viable to reopen after the fire.

I really don’t think it’s one issue however.

Zoning restrictions, the big two supermarkets, Rates and taxes, bad locations and bad business practice. There all in the mix and you can’t just blame ACT Government.

I’d still rather see some Government controlled competition than a web site that probably won’t affect anything.

A Nonny Mouse9:29 pm 24 Jan 19

The cost of an ‘e-litre’ should be included on any petrol price watch site.
An e-litre is a way to compare the cost of travelling in an electric vehicle with
an average petrol vehicle. A 7L per 100km petrol car consuming a litre of fuel costing about $1.50 will go around 14km.
A typical electric car uses 50 cents worth of electricity at the current flat tariff of 25c/kWh to cover the same distance.
Hence, the current cost of an ‘e-litre’ of electric ‘fuel’ is 50c.

Capital Retro11:38 am 25 Jan 19

You have quoted the domestic rate. Surely the charging stations charge the commercial rate?

HiddenDragon6:50 pm 24 Jan 19

“But the ACT Government says there is no guarantee that such schemes have any impact on fuel prices and may, in fact, be counterproductive.”

and sadly, here, in cosy, corporatist, “I’m alright, Jack”, Canberra that may well be the outcome, even if such schemes have had a positive impact elsewhere.

When the supermarkets came along with the discount vouchers, that was cheered on as providing “competition” (ironic now, isn’t it?), and people who fretted about the loss of local servos were laughed at – including, presumably, by those who were rubbing their hands together at the thought of how much money could be made from redeveloping the servo sites.

So now we have people driving further, just to fill up (regardless of price), and further still to chase slightly cheaper petrol – an absolute triumph of public policy (particularly from an environmental perspective), Canberra-style.

Along with the issues which are regularly raised about our clunky public transport options, the hearts and minds of those in power might be better focused on this issue if they were deprived of their ratepayer funded vehicles (and parking spaces).

So how many local servos shut with Woolworths coming to the market and Coles and Shell getting in bed together?

I’ll give you a bit of a hint by the time the above happened most of the small local servos in Canberra had closed anyway.

The biggest impact there was Shell in particular cancelling branding and supply arrangements with privately owned local sites.

Given the ACT government’s reluctance to take any useful action on petrol prices I am wondering if there is a matter of government revenue involved? Does the government benefit from higher prices by collecting higher taxes or fees?

Shell (Coles) I find is usually the most expensive. Fyshwick Metro $1.25 and the Shell nearby $1.44…and it had customers. Go figure!
Probably not worth driving to Fyshwick though if you don’t work there, or live nearby.

Capital Retro3:47 pm 23 Jan 19

Has anyone investigated the costs of running a petrol outlet in the ACT compared to those in regional centres nearby? Commercial rates/land-taxes in the ACT are outrageously high and the ACT is where people earn a lot more than anywhere else in Australia. We pay extra for everything here – I followed up an advertised quote for a 6.6kW solar system which was advertised for $3691 supplied and installed “metro in Australian capital cities”. Actually, the small print did not mention Canberra but it is available here for $5021. Why I asked? Because Canberra costs more, was the reply.

Coffee and smashed avo. costs heap more in Canberra too but is anyone complaining about that?

Does anyone know who pays for the petrol/diesel that our MLA’s put in their taxpayer supplied cars?

I don’t have the figures, but I would be certain it wouldn’t be 30c a litre more expensive to do business here.

In years gone by the difference compared to Sydney was about 3c. Taking into account inflation that difference should be closer to 5c.

No doubt there is variation in cost of doing business. But 30c a litre – your having a laugh!

Capital Retro12:19 pm 24 Jan 19

Someone suggested it was the Coles/Woolworths “cartel” that was creating the high petrol prices in Canberra which couldn’t be correct as Coles and Woolworths are in all regional centres and the prices in Albury are 30c a litre cheaper than they are in Canberra.

Houses in Albury are half the cost of Canberra and wages are are a lot lower too.

The cost of living and doing business in Canberra is the cause. Notice all the empty shops around Canberra? That’s because on-line shopping has minimal overheads.

Plenty of empty shops in Albury and Wagga Wagga too. What’s the cause of that?

Capital Retro10:12 pm 24 Jan 19

Why don’t you hit the Hume and find out yourself, then?

Capital Retro5:58 pm 26 Jan 19

It’s been that way for a long time in regional centres JC. Canberra’s commercial void is comparatively recent.

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