Karen Collier, 21 December 2015

PETROL station Grinches have begun jacking up fuel prices ahead of Christmas.

Price gaps of almost 30c a litre have emerged between the cheapest and most expensive fuel outlets.

Dozens of Melbourne petrol stations monitored by the RACV have raised their prices to a peak of a 134.9c a litre, and there are fears that many more will soon follow.

But RACV vehicle engineering acting manager Nick Platt urged motorists to take advantage of outlets still selling for as low as 105.7c a litre.

And drivers should aim to pay no more than 110c a litre, Mr Platt said.

“It is not a good thing that prices have started going up just before people are going away,” Mr Platt said.

“The fact it is so close to a holiday is not going to rest well with the public, so we hope other outlets hold off.

“We urge motorists to bypass expensive outlets and leave them exposed.”

As of yesterday, about 7 per cent of the 500 outlets that the RACV monitors had bumped up prices by about 25c a litre. Before then, the cost at the pump had steadily fallen since late last month.

Prices at stations in Broadmeadows, Brunswick, Hampton Park and Forest Hill were among those to jump.

RACV’s website recorded a price of 134.9c a litre in Dandenong; elsewhere in the suburb fuel sold for 106.9c a litre.

“The price rise is consistent with the normal cycle, but we would have expected them to drop a couple of cents more before going up,” Mr Platt said.

Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman said the timing was unfortunate.

“It is obviously disappointing to see petrol prices rising at the moment when it is already a very high spend at Christmas time for household budgets,” Mr Zimmerman said.

Melbourne’s average unleaded price yesterday of 112.3c a litre remained the cheapest of the nation’s capital cities, according to Motormouth data.

Australasian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association CEO Mark McKenzie denied price gouging.

“This is part of a normal price cycle that has coincided with the Christmas break. Past research has found prices go up about half the time in advance of holidays,” he said.

CommSec chief economist Craig James said the national unleaded average price of 123.9c a litre in the last week was at a 10-month low, and still lower than Christmas last year.

But the national average gap between wholesale and bowser prices had blown out to a record 15c a litre over the past five weeks.

Since early October the Singapore gasoline price had fallen about 15c a litre and the wholesale price 12c, yet the national pump price had dropped by less than 10c. The wholesale cost of diesel had also tumbled to 99.1c a litre in the past week, to near 11-year lows.

“However, given that the gross retail margin on diesel is around 23c a litre, motorists may have to wait a little longer to pay $1 a litre at the bowser,” Mr James said.

Extracted in full from the Herald Sun.