The retail fuel industry will be forced to grapple with a number of new regulations on retail fuel operations during 2016/17, particularly in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

Fuel retailers in these Australian States will need to think about how they are going to approach the new regulations as a number of these regulations present a significant risk in terms of substantial increases in business and regulatory costs.

Victoria

The Victorian Government is preparing to introduce new laws governing the operation of fuel price boards from 1 December 2016. These new laws do not legally require all sites to display a fuel price board but the do require those sites with price boards to display undiscounted fuel prices only (i.e. not including discount vouchers or the like).

While the laws will likely impose costs on some fuel retailers, the Victorian decision is wholly consistent with the light touch laws in South Australia and impose a far lower cost burden on fuel retailers than the onerous price board regulations that exist in NSW.

Importantly, the Victorian regulations are a major step towards the development of a nationally consistent approach to price board regulations across Australia and ACAPMA has advocated the adoption of the same model in Queensland, as part of the State Government’s consideration of the need (or otherwise) for new rate board regulations following calls from the RACQ – the State’s Motoring Body.

New South Wales

New South Wales fuel retailers need to prepare for two new laws to come into place in 2016/17.

The first is the Fuel Check Regulation that will legally require all of the State’s retailers to advise the Government every time there is a change in fuel prices. This information will then be collated and made available to consumer bodies (e.g. NRMA) and third party mobile app developers in an apparent effort to increase consumer awareness of fuel prices.

All fuel retailers have recently been sent letters by NSW Fair Trading requesting basic operational and contact details about their business by 30 June 2016, with the risk of fines for those businesses that do not comply.

The government is also finalising work on changes to the State’s existing Biofuels laws. These laws remove the previous exemption of businesses operating less than 20 retail fuel sites, requiring all fuel retailers (other than those that apply for and secure an exemption) to stock and retail ethanol blended fuel.

The details of the new Biofuels Regulation is currently the subject of heated debate between the State Government and Industry bodies, but is expected to come into effect from 1 January 2017.

Accordingly, fuel retailers should consider the likely effect of the new laws on their business and ACAPMA has produced a guide on how to prepare (refer http://www.acapma.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/ACA094_how_to_guide_NSW.pdf)

In addition, the NSW Government continues to press ahead with the requirement for services  stations selling more than 3.5ML of petrol (or higher) per year to have installed all equipment necessary to comply with the State’s Vapour Recover (Stage 2) laws from 1 January 2017.

Queensland

In Queensland, the State Government is preparing to introduce new laws that will require the sale of ethanol blended fuel by eligible retailers from 1 January 2017.

Unlike NSW, the Queensland Government is working cooperatively with the fuel industry to better understand the likely impact on fuel retail businesses before finalising the detail of the regulations and the supporting exemption scheme. As a consequence, the full details of the new laws are not yet available.

Nonetheless, now is the time for Queensland fuel retailers to consider the likely implications of the new laws on their business and ACAPMA once again has prepared a useful guide about how to prepare (see http://www.acapma.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/ACA094_how_to_guide_QLD.pdf)

Other Australian States/Territories

In the Northern Territory, the Giles Government has tabled a proposal for new fuel price disclosure that border on the absurd, effectively granting Territorian Police the right to enter a business and seize the financial records of fuel retailers if the need arises.

Needless to say, ACAPMA is closely monitoring the passage of this draft legislation and has already voiced strong opposition to same.

Recent changes in Western Australian planning laws are understood to have significantly increased the costs and time required for securing approvals for new capital works in that State. Any business considering site upgrades or new capital works should therefore allow increased time for statutory approvals.

Summary

All in all, 2016/17 is a year of unprecedented regulatory change and the key to minimising compliance costs for your business is to be aware of the changes and prepare early for the new laws.

In the meantime, ACAPMA continues to work with State/Territory governments – some more positively than others – to ensure that the operation of these new laws take due account of the need to minimise the future financial impact on fuel retailers.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE: