Daryl Passmore, 28 February 2016
AUSTRALIAN Competition and Consumer Commission boss Rod Sims admits the watchdog may be powerless to halt profiteering by petrol companies.
Mr Sims said the ACCC would use next week’s Palaszczuk Government-ordered fuel price roundtable to quiz petrol companies about why Queenslanders consistently pay more to fill up than drivers in other parts of the country.
“Our analysis suggests it is just greater profitability because the terminal gate price is no higher in Brisbane. Retailers need to explain why they need to earn on average 3¢ more in Brisbane than other places.
“There is no law against pricing well above cost and making high profits, whether it’s apples or petrol,’’ he said.
“There are no price controls.’’
Wednesday’s roundtable follows a series of stories by The Sunday Mail and The Courier-Mailhighlighting how Queensland motorists are being ripped off.Chaired by Main Roads and Energy Minister Mark Bailey, it will bring together fuel refiners, retailers, the ACCC and the RACQ.
Australasian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association CEO Mark McKenzie said: “This is effectively an open market and there will be price differences between cities, based on the intensity of competition. That is significantly lower in Brisbane than it is in metropolitan Melbourne.’’
Mr Sims said the summit would throw some transparency on to the state’s fuel market, including the level of competition, and ultimately it would be pressure from motorists that drove down prices.
From May, drivers will be able to get free access to bowser price information in their area, updated every 15 minutes, via an app. The deal was brokered by the ACCC in return for dropping court action alleging anti-competitive behaviour against BP, Caltex, Woolworths and 7-Eleven and Informed Sources — the Brisbane-based company which currently provides fuel retailers with site-by-site pricing information on each other.
RACQ executive manager for public policy Michael Roth said: “When motorists have easy access to accurate real time data, they are more likely to search for the cheapest local petrol station rather than just go to the most convenient one. The key to driving more competition is to get more motorists to make their purchase decision based on cost rather than convenience.’’
Mr Bailey said: “The (ACCC) report found petrol margins in Australia’s largest cities have increased to their highest levels since 2002, with Brisbane consistently higher.”