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

Ian Bushnell 23 January 2019 51
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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51 Responses to Canberra’s fuel rip-off: Libs promise to trial real-time petrol pricing
bj_ACT 9:52 pm 25 Jan 19

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 Mouse 9:29 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 Retro 11:38 am 25 Jan 19

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

HiddenDragon 6:50 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).

    JC 9:15 pm 25 Jan 19

    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.

Nick Swain 4:49 pm 24 Jan 19

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?

Maya123 11:26 pm 23 Jan 19

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.

Terry West Terry West 5:33 pm 23 Jan 19

Why , they or any government in this town are too scared to do anything about why we are getting ripped off 🙄

Capital Retro 3:47 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?

    JC 7:12 am 24 Jan 19

    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.

    Capital Retro 12:19 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.

    JC 6:17 pm 24 Jan 19

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

    Capital Retro 5:58 pm 26 Jan 19

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

    Jim9 11:02 am 24 Jan 19

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

    Capital Retro 10:12 pm 24 Jan 19

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

Boweavil Kat Boweavil Kat 11:36 am 23 Jan 19

Zzzzzzzzzzz um there is an app for that, but then again the liberals did ruin the NBN.

Gwyn Rees Gwyn Rees 8:48 am 23 Jan 19

So let me get this right. A proposed solution by the Libs won't work but others claim it can all be fixed by an app. So a family, with a kid or two, full-time jobs juggling all your weekly life - work, gym, kids events, groceries, etc... your driving down the road look down at your fuel gauge and you say gee I need to pull out my app (pulling over first of course) and then drive what 5,10 or 15 kms to get my cheap fuel. And then what is the analysis did I save money or did I spend more getting to and from where I needed to get cheaper fuel. The fact remains that fuel prices are higher in Canberra when compared to the other cities and significantly lower than NSW. (https://www.aaa.asn.au/fuel-price-data/) I think a policy narrative from politicians that provides relief to its citizens after years now of experiencing above wage growth increases to our rates and other taxes is a good thing.

Steve Kenihan Steve Kenihan 8:39 am 23 Jan 19

It's the Coles/Woolworths duopoly that is keeping prices high, so do your grocery shopping at IGA, Aldi & local grocers until Coles & Woolworths stop ripping us off.

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 5:48 pm 23 Jan 19

    Steve Kenihan not quite true when it come to fuel. Coles and Woolworths make up 50% of the market combined. That means half the servos are not Coles or Woolies. So hardly a duopoly and plenty of choice.

    And besides using that theory why are prices cheap in Sydney when the market shares are similar?

    Steve Kenihan Steve Kenihan 7:45 pm 23 Jan 19

    Source of your data? There are 5 stations within 4km of my house & 4 of them are Coles or Woolworths. There is minimal choice in Canberra compared to other cities.

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 3:59 pm 24 Jan 19

    Steve Kenihan source ACCC

    Graph below was part of the ACCc’s decision to block Woolworths selling to BP.

    And by my count in Canberra there are 50 servos. (Just realised missed a couple think 2 7Elevens and 1 Caltex but wont fix the count below as it would not make much difference percentage wise)

    5 Caltex (10%)

    7 bp (14%)

    8 7Eleven (16%)

    12 Woolworths (24%)

    14 Coles (28%)

    Others 4. (8%)

    So the number of Coles, Woolies and BP servos are on par with the nation. We have less Caltex servos, more 7Eleven and less “others”

    Steve Kenihan Steve Kenihan 4:30 pm 24 Jan 19

    And yet today Woolworths is able to sell petrol at 126.7 at the station next to Cosco while it is 141.9 on the other side of the city. Coles is even more expensive. It suggests that looking at the city as one market misses the point that the dominance of Coles & Woolworths in some areas of the city reduces competition.

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 6:08 pm 24 Jan 19

    Market isn’t big enough to be able to break it down much further.

    The core issue is people continue to buy at the expensive places like Coles (which seems to be the highest by a fair margin all over town). And this despite there already being petrol price comparison websites and apps now and cheaper sites even within areas like Tuggeranong.

    Steve Kenihan Steve Kenihan 5:04 pm 26 Jan 19

    Ashley Wright The market may not be big in volume terms but I don't think it's any more likely that someone will go from Belconnen to Fyshwick to buy fuel than they would travel from Caulfield to Essendon. For practical purposes it is a segregated market. The reason people still buy places like Coles and Woolworths is that there is little alternative in their area. Back to the example I gave of my area.

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 9:02 pm 26 Jan 19

    Sounds like you live in Tuggeranong. In which case you also have a United, BP and a Mobil to use.

    Whilst they may not be within4km of your home you would drive past or close by at least one of them on a regular basis.

    Steve Kenihan Steve Kenihan 9:53 pm 26 Jan 19

    No I don’t live in Tuggeranong. That those stations are there has no bearing at all on my fuel purchases because they are not within my market. Pricing in Tuggeranong doesn’t affect pricing in the north or west of Canberra.

Tim Thornley Tim Thornley 5:24 am 23 Jan 19

How dumb. We already have that with petrolspy.com.au and the app. Support the service stations that suport us. Especially the smaller companies.

Kerri Hallas Kerri Hallas 5:10 am 23 Jan 19

Don’t believe the hype!

Andrew Brien Andrew Brien 9:31 pm 22 Jan 19

“if they win” 😂😂😂😂😂

Daniel Königs Daniel Königs 9:02 pm 22 Jan 19

Maybe if people checked the apps, they’d stop buying fuel from Coles/Shell with their highest cost across the board...

Ray Vale Ray Vale 7:40 pm 22 Jan 19

Once again I am having problems with FuelCheck on my iPhone 6S. This morning there was an update to FuelCheck on my iPhone. I lost all my favourites. When I tried to add my favourites again, the only service station in my area selling Diesel (DL) was Bp Gloucester. I am missing about 10 servos in my area. Is there a solution to this. I do not have this problem on my iPad.

Fiona Atkins Fiona Atkins 7:36 pm 22 Jan 19

In the past 2 years since I moved to the ACT, the petrol price (and the recent increase/decrease) has been the same day in, day out

Gwyn Rees Gwyn Rees 7:29 pm 22 Jan 19

Government increases cost of living pressures - people complain. Opposition propose relief from cost of living pressures - people complain. Doomed.

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 7:01 am 23 Jan 19

    Pen Gwyn no evidence it will provide any relief. The Canberra times article mentioned in Perth the ACCC did a study that determines what made the difference there was the price cycles and people filling up on the cheapest day, which was the same day every week.

    They found the price lock the night before made no difference and the app to show prices, well unlike when these were first introduced years ago by some governments there are now a raft of websites that provide the same service. So want cheap(we) fuel maybe start using those websites to identify it.

    Gwyn Rees Gwyn Rees 7:05 am 23 Jan 19

    Person writes about people complaining - someone complains. ;)

    Stuart McKay Stuart McKay 9:23 am 23 Jan 19

    Pen Gwyn all these complaints because the Libs came up with a good solution before labor did - despite an ALP Government in QLD trialling the exact same thing! Can’t please everyone it seems

    Gwyn Rees Gwyn Rees 10:03 am 23 Jan 19

    Stuart McKay Well our local Libs could pinch other good policies from Labor in other states for example the Andrew's Government's capping rates at 2 or 3%. What a great policy that is!

    Stuart McKay Stuart McKay 10:07 am 23 Jan 19

    Pen Gwyn https://www.canberratimes.com.au/politics/act/canberra-liberals-promise-to-cap-rates-if-they-win-the-next-election-20180606-p4zjsg.html

    Gwyn Rees Gwyn Rees 10:08 am 23 Jan 19

    Awesome. Can they call it the Fair Go Rates System?

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 10:58 am 23 Jan 19

    Not a complaint. Just staying the bleeding obvious that the WA example made no difference to prices.

    I personally would like to see a policy from either side ghat makes a difference rather than plans like this which are for votes only as it is proven it makes no difference.

Craig Nash Craig Nash 5:49 pm 22 Jan 19

It’s funny how the government fails to mention the massive tax/excise component of our fuel prices.

It’s free market economics at work too-they have the petrol we need, and they can effectively charge what they want.

Regulate the industry or jog on!

    Nicholas Elizabeth Swain Nicholas Elizabeth Swain 4:52 pm 24 Jan 19

    Does anyone know if ACT extracts much higher tax/exercise than other States?

Eoin Wotkinz Eoin Wotkinz 5:34 pm 22 Jan 19

Can confirm government not taking action. Message them yourself via FB messenger

Alex Thomson Alex Thomson 4:58 pm 22 Jan 19

Wot? The Liberals want regulation!?

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 5:08 pm 22 Jan 19

    Alex Thomson they want the popularist vote!

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