Samantha Healy, 29 March 2016

THE petrol price rip-off in Townsville was plain to see over the Easter long weekend, with local drivers discovering just how much they were being stung at the bowser compared to other regional centres.

As families hit the highways for the holidays, the cost disparity north and south of the city was lit up on neon displays.

Unleaded petrol was retailing at one major service station in Innisfail for 94.9c/litre at the weekend, with the RACQ recording an average price of 100.9c/litre in the North Queensland town yesterday.

In Ayr, the average price of unleaded fuel was 104.9c/litre yesterday, while in Bowen the average price was 107.7c/litre.

Meanwhile, the average price in Townsville yesterday was 117.1c/litre – about two cents per litre higher than the RACQ’s “fair price” estimate.

RACQ spokeswoman Renee Smith said fuel prices had improved in Townsville but were still too high based on their estimates of a fair price.

The “improvement” comes after fuel retailers came under consistent pressure due to high and uncompetitive prices in Townsville in recent months.

There have even been calls for the consumer watchdog to investigate pricing in Townsville, with some city leaders pointing to possible collusion in the industry.

Ms Smith said Townsville motorists had been “ripped off plenty of times” over the past 12 months. “There is no good reason for Townsville to be paying so much more than what is fair,” she said.

Ms Smith said the motoring body had been made aware of some aggressive pricing in regional towns like Innisfail and Ayr, with reports some retailers were selling below wholesale prices to tempt consumers.

She said those cheaper prices hinted at a culture of uncompetitive pricing.

“Those servos are relying on in-store sales to counteract those lower prices,” she said.

“But it doesn’t matter how many service stations you have, it depends on whether they are acting competitively.

“We will continue calling on the ACCC to investigate pricing. Is it lack of competition? That’s what we believe. Until then, we will keep a close watch on prices.”

Abe Connors-Jones, 20, was forced to give up on Townsville’s high fuel prices, switching from his unleaded-guzzling V6 to a diesel van.

“I had to make the switch to save money,” he said. “The price of diesel is better but it could be cheaper.”

Diesel was selling for an average of 104.9c/litre in Townsville yesterday, about 2c higher than the price in Innisfail.

In Ayr, the average price for diesel was 109.7c/litre.

Extracted in full from the Townsville Bulletin.