Eli Greenblat, 23 December 2015

Woolworths will be allowed to keep using a website and mobile app that helps shoppers seek out the cheapest petrol price offering after the competition regulator discontinued its case against the supermarket group and four other petrol retailers.

But it looks like Coles will be left out in the cold, after it agreed to settle its case with the ACCC last week and no longer use the petrol price information service.

Under the deal between the competition regulator, Woolworths and the other users of Informed Sources, the petrol price site will provide regular pricing data to consumers at the same time as it is provided to the retailer users.

“I welcome and appreciate the decision of Informed Sources and the petrol retailers to make the pricing information available to consumers at the same time the retailers receive it,’’ said ACCC chairman Rod Sims.

“This will help consumers make better and more informed decisions about where and when to buy petrol by helping them identify the best time to buy and the sites with the lowest price.’’

When it initially launched the case last year against Informed Sources, Coles, Woolworths and the petrol retailers the ACCC alleged that the price information exchange service in its current form allowed those retailers to communicate with each other about their prices, and had the effect or likely effect of substantially lessening competition for the sale of petrol in Melbourne.

“The ACCC believes that greater transparency of petrol prices and the behaviour of petrol retailers across Australia will reduce the potential for any adverse effect of the Informed Sources service on competition,” Mr Sims said.

Under the Informed Sources service, these petrol retailers currently exchange site by site petrol prices covering most of Australia every 15 or 30 minutes.

The retail petrol pricing data will also be available to consumer, motoring, and research organisations.

“The ACCC believes that this will facilitate improved competition amongst petrol retailers,” Mr Sims said.

“Making this pricing information available to consumers will allow consumers to make better informed purchasing decisions and therefore create greater competition in petrol pricing. ”

BP, Caltex, Woolworths, and 7-Eleven have agreed that they will not enter into or give effect to any price information exchange service unless the information each receives is made available to consumers and third party organisations at the same time.

Woolworths said this morning it was pleased with today’s outcome to have resolved these proceedings by agreement.

The ACCC discontinued its case against Woolworths, Informed Sources and four other petrol retailers, without any admission of wrongdoing and with no contribution to the ACCC’s costs.

The Informed Sources service will continue to be available for use, with information being made available to consumers and third parties. Woolworths has been publishing its prices to consumers since October 2012 via the Woolworths Fuel App and we will continue to do so.

“Woolworths has always considered the Informed Sources service to be pro-competitive, helping Woolworths to efficiently compete in petrol markets and to ensure motorists get great prices,’’ a Woolworths spokesman said.

“We are happy that our customers will be able to continue to compare our and our competitor’s prices on the Woolworths Fuel App, so they can be sure they are getting a great price for fuel at our sites.”

However, it is unclear if Coles will be able now to also use Informed Sources after Coles settled its case with the ACCC and agreed to terminate its membership of Informed Sources at the expiration of its current term and agreed not to enter into any price information sharing agreement that is similar to the one operated by Informed Sources.

Extracted in full from The Australian.