Townsville motorists are accusing service stations of holding them to ransom after a jump of almost 20c a litre for fuel in just hours yesterday.

Four service stations within 10km of the CBD had prices as high as $1.34 at 6pm despite being as low as $1.14 at noon.

The price hike comes after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission launched a probe in January after exposing a gap between city and regional petrol prices.

It found drivers in centres such as Townsville were being ripped off. A report is expected to be released within months.

RACQ spokesman Renee Smith said a fair fuel price in Townsville yesterday would have been $126.1.

“Anything motorists see under that price is a good deal at the moment and it is really important that motorists are taking the time to shop around keeping that fair fuel price in mind,” Ms Smith said.

“If people are driving around and seeing prices more than that I urge them to keep on driving.”

Ms Smith said motorists running on empty were usually hit the hardest and urged drivers to remain vigilant to ensure they were getting the best deal.

“Fuel is one of the biggest weekly expense outside of groceries,” she said.

“We encourage motorists to support those servos keeping prices down … and give them their business in turn hoping that using people power drives prices down.”

According to the Australian Institute of Petroleum data, the average weekly petrol prices for the 12 weeks to March 1 peaked in Townsville at $1.45 on December 14 and dropped to as low as $1.17 on February 8.

Herbert MP Ewen Jones said his office received a number of calls about fuel prices yesterday, but conceded the Federal Government would never control the prices.

“Petrol is a grudge purchase and no one is ever going to be happy not matter what the price is,” he said.

“I’m not trying to make excuses for the rise, I’m as angry as the next person, and it hurts me just as much, but it’s not the federal government who’s doing it.

“If there is collusion and rorting then that is a matter for the ACCC … to which people must complain if this is to have traction.”

Kelso resident Norm Fulmer said a service station along Riverway Driver had fuel at $119.9 on Tuesday night, which increased to $133.9 yesterday morning.

“When I saw the jump in price I nearly fell out of the car,” he said.

“Some of these servo operators and oil companies should be held accountable because when they put it up by 14c overnight, I can’t comprehend.

“We have been getting shafted time and time again and there have been no major incidents to justify the rise.”

Extracted in full from Townsville Bulletin.