Kimberley Vlasic, 20 April 2016

CAIRNS motorists could finally see cheaper petrol prices as the national consumer watchdog launches a long-awaited investigation into the local fuel market.

Motoring groups and state and federal politicians have welcomed the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission inquiry, announced yesterday, which will examine the factors driving higher fuel prices in the city. Fuel prices fell significantly in other areas around Australia where similar inquiries have been conducted.

“Cairns petrol prices are among the highest in Queensland considering its size and location,” said ACCC chairman Rod Sims.

“In 2014-15, the average retail price of unleaded petrol in Cairns was 146.4 cents per litre. “This was 12.3c higher than prices in the five largest cities.”

But White Rock school bus driver Phillip Whykes, who co-ordinates the Cairns Fuel Price Ripoff Facebook page, is sceptical the ACCC will have a lasting impact on “thick-skinned” service stations.

“I think they will tell the Cairns community what they want to hear but there will be no real outcomes,” he said.

“I hope I’m wrong, I hope something comes of it and I hope we get some respite, and some findings that prove we are being ripped off.”

Cairns is the fourth regional location to be investigated by the ACCC and the first in Queensland. Mr Sims said fuel prices dropped immediately after a study was announced in Darwin last year and the same could happen in Cairns.

“We expect to find out why Cairns prices are as high as they are, to what extent it is higher costs and what to extent it is higher profits,” he said.

Fuel retailers will soon receive compulsory information notices from the ACCC, while consumers are also invited to have their say by July 31.

Mr Sims expects the investigation will take six months.

RACQ public policy executive manager Michael Roth said the inquiry was overdue.

“It’s time for a fair go at the bowser in Cairns and we’re hopeful this study will make a real difference to unleaded petrol prices in the area,” he said.

Extracted in full from the Cairns Post.