Karen Collier

COUNTRY drivers are being slugged up to 30c a litre more at the petrol pump than Melbourne motorists.

Metropolitan unleaded prices have steadily fallen since early last month to as low as 110.9c a litre on Wednesday.

But experts suggest filling up now, as the metropolitan price cycle low point has lasted longer than usual. Prices are expected to jump by as much as 25c a litre soon before gradually easing again.

RACV fuel spokesman Michael Case said the Melbourne price had dipped beneath wholesale costs for a fortnight.

It averaged 114.3c a litre on Wednesday. But many country drivers are instead experiencing hip pocket pain.

The RACV this week recorded an average price of 140.9c a litre at Yarrawonga, 140.7c at Corryong, 137.3c at Swan Hill, 136.5c at Sale, 135.9c at Hamilton, 135.8c at Benalla and 135.3c at Horsham.

The gulf is costing country motorists up to $21 more to fill a 70-litre tank, and up to $15 extra for a 50-litre vehicle, compared with Melbourne drivers.

Mr Case believed motorists in some regional areas were being ripped off by companies taking too long to pass on ­reduced wholesale costs.

“There is no justification for that level of gap,” Mr Case said. “Regional prices can be higher due to transport costs, slower replenishment of stocks … and less competition, but those sort of differences make no sense.

“The wholesale unleaded fuel price has dropped 18.5c since mid-June and many country areas have seen little, if any, corresponding decrease.”

In contrast to the highest-priced areas, other regions, ­including Bairnsdale, Ballarat, Bendigo, Ararat and Shepparton, posted average prices this week of 123c to 129c a litre.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission launched an investigation into country and city fuel price differences earlier this year.

The gap between the average Victorian regional and metropolitan price was 5.9c a litre in 2014-15. That was up from a 4.4c a litre in 2013-14.

Extracted in full from:  hearldsun.com.au