The competition watchdog has announced Darwin as the site for its first in-depth investigation into high petrol prices.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will use its compulsory information gathering powers to obtain details from fuel companies about their pricing and supply chain arrangements in the Northern Territory’s capital.

The ACCC said the average retail petrol price in Darwin over the past two years was around $1.70 a litre, nearly 20 cents a litre more than the five largest capital cities.

“Petrol prices in Darwin are among the highest in Australia,” said ACCC chairman Rod Sims.

“Petrol prices in Darwin are consistently higher than in Katherine, which is far smaller and more than three hours inland.

“Furthermore the differential between Darwin prices and prices in the five largest capital cities has increased in recent years.”

The ACCC is launching the investigation after a direction to step up its monitoring of fuel prices from the Commonwealth Minister for Small Business, Bruce Billson, late last year.

There have been concerns that Australian motorists, especially in regional areas, are not enjoying the full benefits of falling global oil prices.

Two more regional locations will be selected for similar investigations by the end of the year.

“To understand why petrol prices are so high we need deep and detailed information about every step of the supply chain. Gathering and analysing this complex data will take considerable time,” Mr Sims said.

Mr Sims said the ACCC’s action will not guarantee lower prices for Darwin, but will at least help explain why motorists there are paying more.

“We see three potential benefits from these ‘deep dive’ regional market studies,” he said.

“First, simply providing greater transparency will empower. Second, we could make recommendations for change to some tier of government. Third, we may find a breach of the Competition and Consumer Act that was not otherwise apparent.”

The ACCC is also seeking submissions from Darwin consumers, industry members and other stakeholders.

Extracted in full from ABC