PETROL prices did not change at 600 service stations across NSW for a month or more if the NSW Government’s FuelCheck website is to be believed.
The $300,000 website launched in August last year to give “accurate, reliable, real-time information” about fuel prices.
But doubts about data being pumped through the site are growing with 1680 price mismatches between the bowser and FuelCheck reported.
While 18 fines have been issued to stations for not updating prices, there are 2235 service stations in NSW.
Australasian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association CEO Mark McKenzie said small fuel retailers “frequently” have problems uploading their prices.
“Put simply, the whole thing is a sham and is not supported by sufficient resources,” Mr McKenzie said.
“The fact that about 30 per cent of stations are not updating prices regularly, the NSW Government’s claim that Fuel Check is providing real-time information for all retail sites in the state appears dubious at best.”
A Westleigh independent service station manager, who did not want to be named said NSW Fair Trading called sometimes and said ‘you haven’t changed your price for a while’.
“We’re not playing games with prices,” he said.
“The wholesale price of fuel is not yoyoing like the prices do on the road, it’s like buying aeroplane tickets where prices change every day,” he said.
A NSW Fair Trading spokeswoman said there are about 600 stations in regional areas. Many of them don’t update prices every month due to less frequent fuel delivery and lower sales figures, she said.
“Fair Trading has not received any complaints from petrol stations with regard to difficulty updating their prices on FuelCheck,” the spokeswoman said.
Fair Trading have conducted 2252 inspections of service stations across the state and no issues have been raised by any commercial users regarding the quality of the data on the website, she said.
Mr McKenzie pointed to a July 2017 OECD report that found similar apps to FuelCheck in Germany, Chile and Perth that aim to promote price competition may in fact undermine it because petrol station owners shift pricing decisions from humans to algorithms.
FuelCheck does not display the date petrol prices were last updated but it can be accessed via a data portal. The Hornsby Advocate analysed prices on a Saturday morning at 10am and found just one per cent of petrol stations had updated prices that day, while more than half of all the prices on the FuelCheck website were from five days ago or older.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian was at Metro Marrickville to launch an update of the FuelCheck app yesterday.
“This new app is a game changer for motorists and enables them to find the best deal by price, location, fuel type and brand,” Ms Berejiklian said. “By giving motorists a bird’s-eye view of the market they can find the cheapest fuel anywhere in the state, providing them with much needed relief at the hip pocket.”
As part of the announcement a map touting the cheapest stations across the state based on the first year’s worth of data fed to FuelCheck was released.
Two Metro Fuel Fairfield stations were advertised as the cheapest place for three types of fuel but one of these stations — at 62 Railway Pde — had not updated its price for more than 64 days in late September, according to analysis by the Hornsby Advocate.
Metro Fuel were contacted for comment but did not respond before deadline.
On the north shore petrol stations charge more than any areas with Caltex Mount Colah named as one of Sydney’s most expensive places to buy E10 fuel.
Hornsby motorists pay about three cents more than many postcodes in western Sydney, analysis of FuelCheck data for 91 octane fuel in June 2017 shows.
Berowra Heights ($1.25), Cherrybrook ($1.24) and Normanhurst ($1.24) were on the pricey side for P91 compared to West Pennant Hills ($1.22) and Hornsby ($1.23).
Extracted from The Daily Telegraph.