Daryl Passmore, 20 December 2015

GREEDY fuel companies are gobbling up a third of the pump price paid by drivers.

Price monitoring service FUELtrac says as much as 41¢ from the $1.33 per litre charged to Brisbane motorists goes in mark-ups.

“The benefits of record (low) oil prices should be flowing through the fuel supply chain to the wider economy and not being siphoned off by these intermediaries for their benefit,’’ FUELtrac general manager Geoff Trotter said.

Often the same companies control the importation and service stations, enabling them to double dip.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission this week sounded the alarm on petrol retail margins, which are at a record high since monitoring began in 2002.

Brisbane, which has been the worst in the country for the past eight years, had an average margin of 13.9¢ in the three months to September.

But Mr Trotter said when bowser prices neared the top of the price cycle, as they are now, the margin was up to 25¢ a litre. Refinery and wholesale margins added another 16¢ per litre to companies’ coffers.

“It’s unbelievable, and it’s unacceptable,’’ he said.

The Palaszczuk Government has confirmed its investigation – first revealed by The Sunday Mail in August – will be held early next year to find out why Brisbane has become the most expensive city in Australia in which to fill up.

Industry bosses have defended their take, saying fuel prices are “well below the dizzy heights’’ of a few years ago.

Australasian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association CEO Mark McKenzie said the highest margins went to company-operated sites, such as Coles and Woolworths-branded servo, which held 25 per cent of outlets nationwide but sold almost half of all fuel and typically set the price.

Another 14 per cent were commission agents for major oil companies, and the remainder were independents.

But the Queensland market has changed significantly in recent years as a string of smaller independents, including Matilda and Neumann, were swallowed up by the global Puma chain, and as 7-Eleven emerged as a major player.

That has effectively left the southeast corner with five big players – Coles Express-Shell, BP, Caltex-Woolworths, Puma and 7-Eleven – and a dearth of true small independents.

One place where competition is thriving is Ayr in north Queensland. RACQ surveys have found the town, with five service stations to cater to the population of 18,000, has had the lowest petrol prices in the state this year.

Ayr’s drivers are currently paying an average 113.8c a litre unleaded.

“During some months this year, Ayr motorists have paid on average more than 20 cents per litre less than those in nearby Townsville,’’ RACQ spokeswoman Renee Smith said. “This has been incredibly frustrating for Townsville motorists, who are often paying more than we believe is fair.’’

In fact, many motorists are travelling the hour south to fill up, Burdekin Shire Mayor Bill Lowis said.

With the town’s reputation for bowser bargains spreading quickly, it has also become a popular stop for grey nomads and truckies. “We are pretty happy,’’ Mr Lowis said.

Demand for fuel for sugar harvesting and other agricultural uses in the area help outlets keep the cost down, he said.

Extracted in full from the Courier Mail.