Almost all NRMA members in the Canberra region support real-time monitoring of fuel prices, with many crossing the border into NSW in search of cheaper fuel, according to a new survey.
The NRMA said 94 per cent supported the introduction of the FuelCheck program – or real-time price data being available to motorists in the ACT.
The survey of 1158 people in the ACT and surrounding areas showed 70 per cent supported the ACT Government taking action to address exorbitant fuel prices in the ACT, with 67 per cent supporting the Government encouraging independent service stations to enter the ACT market.
The NRMA said Canberra consistently had the second-highest fuel prices among capital cities in Australia, and over the past 12 months the average price of regular unleaded petrol in Canberra was 150.7 cents per litre – 10.7 cents higher than Sydney.
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The NRMA research also found just under half (47 per cent) had driven outside the ACT to fill up and 20 per cent always did this, and that the price of fuel had had a significant impact on 37 per cent of household budgets.
Three-quarters (75 per cent) believe prices in the ACT are significantly higher than Sydney and more than half (48 per cent) believe prices are between 11-25 cents per litre higher.
In its submissions to the Legislative Assembly’s fuel inquiry, the NRMA called on the Government to replicate the petrol reforms introduced in NSW in 2016 (FuelCheck) and to also provide incentives to independent service stations to enter the local market.
FuelCheck allows NRMA members to access the price, in real-time, of petrol and diesel from every service station across NSW via the myNRMA App. Since it was introduced, the reportable average difference in regular unleaded prices has fallen 2.2 cents per litre in Sydney compared to other major cities.
The NRMA said members could save hundreds of dollars a year at the bowser by using the myNRMA App as a research tool before filling up.
NRMA local director Kate Lundy said ACT residents would look to the Government to take meaningful action on fuel prices once the enquiry ended.
“To say NRMA members in the ACT are frustrated by a lack of competition in the local fuel market is a significant understatement – they now look to this inquiry to deliver outcomes,” Ms Lundy said.
“There is not enough competition in the ACT market and no incentives for the oil companies to fight for our dollar at the bowser. As a result, prices in the ACT remain stubbornly high, regardless of movements in world oil prices, and local prices are among the last to fall in the country.
“It is unacceptable that petrol prices in Canberra are consistently and stubbornly higher than regional towns across NSW that are a fraction of the size. Introducing reforms that have worked in NSW will help shift the power away from the oil companies and in to the hands of local motorists.”
The Canberra Liberals have seized on the survey, pledging to introduce a real-time fuel monitoring scheme if elected.
“Canberra drivers know they are being unfairly ripped off, and they’re sick of it,” Canberra Liberals Leader Alistair Coe said.
“They want a fairer deal at the bowser and the Canberra Liberals are prepared to fight for it. It’s just ridiculous that almost half of the ACT drivers surveyed are filling up across the border because they can’t get a good deal at home.
“There are other initiatives that can put downward pressure on fuel prices and I look forward to the Committee’s recommendations.”
The Government has resisted calls for real-time monitoring, saying that 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.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr had said 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.
There were also doubts that such a scheme would work in the ACT’s smaller market.