Shane Wright

Motorists have just enjoyed the lowest price for petrol this century.

Not since people were worried about Y2K have prices been as low in inflation-adjusted dollars, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Through the March quarter, the average price for unleaded in Perth was 113.3 cents a litre.

In the June quarter last year the average was more than $1.34 a litre.

According to ACCC chairman Rod Sims, it was a development replicated across the country.

“Motorists benefited from the lowest quarterly petrol prices in inflation-adjusted terms since 1999,” he said.

“The low petrol prices were due to two main influences: firstly, crude oil prices and international refined petrol prices in inflation adjusted terms fell to lows not seen since 2002 and 2008 respectively.

“Secondly, gross retail margins decreased in the quarter.”

Despite the fall in Perth prices, profit margins remained among the highest in the country.

The gap between the wholesale and the retail price averaged 11.7 cents a litre in Perth through the period. Only Brisbane, where the gab was 13.2 cents a litre, was higher while in Sydney it was just 7.5 cents.

The ACCC revealed it had written to nine major petrol retailers asking for a please explain after retail margins grew through the second half of last year.

The companies cited time lags, expectations of a correction in wholesale prices and costs associated with requirements to put up boards with their prices as causes for the high margins.

“While it is disappointing that competitive rivalry has not been stronger, it is encouraging that margins have now narrowed somewhat. The ACCC will be further analysing these issues in coming months,” the commission said.

Extracted in full from the West Australian.