07 February 2016

FUEL companies will be forced to disclose their profits and how they arrive at the price at the pump – or face jail time – under tough new legislation expected to be brought forward in Parliament this week, the NT News can reveal.

Chief Minister Adam Giles said yesterday that he had “lost patience” with fuel companies over their inflated prices in the Territory and would introduce the Fuel Price Disclosure Act to pressure the prices down.

“Like many Territorians, I’ve lost patience and this legislation will force fuel companies to show their hand,” he said. “Territorians deserve to have confidence that the price they are paying for fuel is fair and reasonable.”

Mr Giles had called for a “please-explain” from fuel companies last month after the price of diesel and unleaded began to creep back up after falling substantially in 2014.

The responses were not adequate, he said.

“We are not kidding – fix your game,” he said.

“While the Country Liberals Government’s 2014 Fuel Summit combined with the threat of fuel disclosure laws and media pressure helped drive down petrol prices, I am concerned about a return to historic behaviour by fuel retailers, particularly in relation to diesel and gas.”

The Bill was first conceived in October 2014 and includes heavy penalties for fuel companies who fail to disclose their pricing information, including fines of close to $60,000 or two years in jail.

It would also give the Commissioner for Consumer Affairs wide ranging investigative powers to search premises.

“This will help give consumers a clear picture of what profits are being made and drive competition by allowing motorists to make informed choices about where they fill up,” Mr Giles said.

The draft Fuel Price Disclosure Bill was scrutinised by a crossbench Parliamentary committee who made a number of recommendations, including that the laws be put on hold until the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission finalised its investigation into the Darwin fuel market in November. That report found that Darwin fuel retailers in 2013-14 experienced net profits 10 times the Adelaide average.

No collusion was suggested at that time but the ACCC told the NT News last month they would continue to monitor the situation.

The difference between the terminal gate price and what Territorians pay at the pump had stayed steady at about 10¢ a litre after prices tumbled last year. The margins, however, have been slowly heading up to over 15¢ a litre since mid November.

Mr Giles said the Government was also working to stimulate competition in the fuel market through the establishment of a fuel stop and transport service hub at Berrimah. The “Truck Central” facility, expected to be a price leader, will be operational in the first half of 2017.

Extracted in full from NT News.