Despite world oil prices plummeting in recent weeks, Canberrans are still paying through the nose at the bowser.
At Weston, unleaded regular petrol remained stubbornly high at 141.9 cents a litre on Monday (23 March), three cents above the Canberra average and 20 cents above the lowest price at independent trader Metro at Fyshwick.
NRMA managing director Peter Khoury said that in Canberra’s uncompetitive market the average price had only fallen four cents in the last couple of weeks, still not enough to reflect the slump in crude, and he accused oil companies of making hay while the sun shone despite the economic pain inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic.
“What we are seeing across the country, probably with the exception of Adelaide, is oil companies using this as an opportunity to maintain their profit levels by not passing on the significant falls in oil prices,” he said.
Even taking into account the fall in the Australian dollar, the price was way too high.
”It’s way too high in Canberra,” Mr Khoury said.
Some sites in Sydney were selling unleaded petrol (ULP) at a dollar a litre or less, with the cheapest at 96 cents a litre, but the average price remained in the mid-$1.30s.
The consumer watchdog, the ACCC, said last week that it was monitoring the situation, and would name and shame companies not passing on the oil price falls.
“We will be looking at the market very closely to determine if further sustained reductions in international prices are being passed onto consumers, and we will be publicly identifying those retailers that are not passing on reductions,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.
“The ACCC cannot control the petrol prices companies set but we can call out problematic price setting which can influence company behaviour.
“At this time the Australian economy needs all the assistance it can get, and lower world oil prices are one of the few positives from current world events.”
But Mr Khoury said that beyond naming and shaming there was little else that could be done.
He said real-time data through petrol price comparison apps and websites allowed motorists to easily find the cheapest fuel, and encouraged a more competitive market.
He welcomed moves in the ACT to adopt it but said the Barr Government might rue delaying its introduction.
”It probably would be quite useful this week to have that technology and legislation installed,” he said.
Mr Khoury called on the oil companies to be good corporate citizens and cut their profit margins.
“Oil prices have been falling consistently now for weeks, those falls have not been adequately passed on, and that is reflected in Canberra. To be behaving like this in this environment when families are worried and people are concerned about their jobs, and we’ve heard today thousands of Australians are losing their jobs, even for the oil companies is quite remarkable,” he said.
”We’re not asking them to lose money. We know what the wholesale price is – it’s very low. What we’re saying is the people you rely on to come into your stores are struggling, they’re suffering. Right now they should be getting relief at the bowser and they are not.”