Daryl Passmore, 18 December 2015

FUEL industry bosses have admitted enjoying “healthy’’ profit margins.

The peak body for fuel distributors and retailers says operators are making up for years of poor returns.

Australasian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association CEO Mark McKenzie rejected claims of price-gouging and dismissed consumer concerns over high petrol retail margins as “hysteria”.

“It is not illegal for fuel businesses to make healthy profits. In fact retail businesses of all kinds strive to charge the highest prices that the market will bear and that competition will permit,” he said.

The Courier-Mail yesterday reported that the Palaszczuk Government will hold talks with fuel industry and motoring representatives in the new year to probe why southeast Queensland has the nation’s highest prices.

It follows an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission report this week revealing that retail margins – the difference between wholesale prices and what drivers pay at the bowser – are at their highest levels since the watchdog began monitoring 13 years ago.

Brisbane has consistently been the highest since 2007 and the retail margin for the three months to September hit 13.9 per cent, compared with 8.3 per cent in Melbourne.

Mr McKenzie accused the ACCC of overstepping its remit.

“ACCC does not exist to ensure that prices are low but rather to ensure that competition is working as it should.

“We believe that some of the apparent hysteria surrounding this latest ACCC report is unjustified and much of the current commentary fails to acknowledge that gross profit margins vary markedly, with some fuel retailers still receiving an average of just 3¢ per litre.’’

But he admitted that ACCC comments and the State Government summit “will make our market think twice about prices’’.

Geoff Trotter, general manager of price-monitoring agency FUELtrac, said it was essential the talks were public.

Extracted in full from the Courier Mail.