CAIRNS motorists fed up with high fuel prices have been urged to have their say as the national consumer watchdog concludes an investigation into the local petroleum market.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is conducting its fourth regional petrol market study in Cairns after pressure from the RACQ and state and federal politicians.

It will aim to explain why prices are higher in the city than in other areas, including Brisbane and even smaller towns such as Innisfail, as well as each component of the prices paid at the bowser.

Consumers, industry participants, stakeholders and other interested parties are invited to make a submission by Sunday.

The latest ACCC report on the Australian petroleum market showed retail petrol prices in the March quarter were at their lowest level in 17 years.

The quarterly average price in the five largest cities was 111 cents per litre (cpl), which was 13.4 cpl lower than in the previous quarter and 22.2 cpl lower than in the September quarter.

Meanwhile, Cairns motorists were yesterday paying 130.4cpl for unleaded and 128.9cpl for diesel – up to 5.5cpl more than their country neighbours.

Average prices across the city were also significantly higher than what the RACQ considered to be fair.

“We believe a fair price for unleaded in Cairns would be 114.5cpl, so prices for unleaded on average are about 15cpl above what we believe is fair,” said RACQ spokeswoman Renee Smith.

“Unfortunately, we haven’t seen a drop due to the ACCC investigation.

“When it announced an investigation in Darwin, what happened there was prices dropped almost immediately because the spotlight was on the city.

“However, we haven’t seen it have a significant impact on the Cairns market.

“Service stations have kept their prices up, which just highlights why we need this investigation to be carried out.”

Federal Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch said there had been suggestions of price gouging and collusion, and urged anyone with information to come forward, including petrol retailers.

“If they think they’re being judged unreasonably, tell us why they have been judged unreasonably,” he said.

“Why is it that we pay 128cpl for diesel in Cairns but I can drive to Malanda and get diesel for 118cpl?

“It doesn’t make sense, so explain it to us. Maybe then we can understand it.

“But my view is that there is clearly something wrong here.

“The ACCC has given us an opportunity to look into it… I’m hoping that we’ll get an outcome out of this that identifies what the problems are and we can see a significant reduction in price.”

For more information or to make a submission, visit consultation.accc.gov.au or call the ACCC Infocentre on 1300 302 502.

Extracted in full from the Cairns Post.

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