SOUTHERN Downs motorists heading on their Christmas journeys this week will be hit by massive fuel price hikes if they don’t shop around.

Diesel prices in Warwick varied by 20 cents a litre yesterday between two outlets just a few hundred metres apart in what the RACQ described as “unexplainable and unusual”.

Warwick’s Shell service station on Albion St gave itself an early Christmas gift yesterday, raising the price of diesel by 15 cents a litre in less than 24 hours to 136.9c/l while just down the road United was selling diesel for 20 cents a litre less at 116.7c/l.

Shell’s diesel gouge comes just days after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission warned fuel companies not to increase the price of fuel in the lead up to Christmas.

RACQ’s fair price for diesel in Warwick yesterday was 119.9c/l and most petrol stations were close to the mark, keeping diesel at that price or below.

A Caltex spokesman said rival operators typically watched Shell prices closely as the company is considered a market leader.

“But Warwick outlets typically want to keep petrol prices down and just a few cents above cost so they are unlikely to look to Shell today,” the spokesman said.

“Perhaps Shell doesn’t care that it has such a huge price variation on diesel as motorists are more interested in the price of unleaded.”

He said owners of diesel vehicles would be stunned by the price hike at Shell.

“People driving around seeing 136.9 for diesel will be as surprised as us as it doesn’t reflect the wholesale price.”

Shell declined to comment yesterday but motorists appeared to be voting with their feet, topping up at other Warwick service stations.

RACQ spokeswoman Lauren Ritchie recommended Warwick motorists fuel up at outlets charging 126c/l or less for unleaded.

“Petrol prices in Warwick are slightly higher than we think is fair with the average being 129.9c/l, with RACQ’s fair fuel price indicating it should be closer to 126c/l,” Ms Ritchie said.

The average price for unleaded in Brisbane is 130.6c/l and in Toowoomba it’s 119.6c/l, she said.

“Warwick and Toowoomba don’t experience the same fluctuations in price as they do in Brisbane due to not being on the price cycle. It means we don’t anticipate jumping significantly in the lead up to Christmas or next week as we head into the new year.”

The most expensive ULP in Queensland yesterday was in Barcaldine, with the cheapest being in Ayr.

The ACCC predicts fuel prices will come down slightly this week.

It said the price had peaked in many capital cities “which means that they should be falling at a time when petrol demand is highest”.

“Sales of petrol across Australia are at their highest in the latter half of December, so the fact that prices should be decreasing, albeit from high levels, during a period of high demand will be some comfort to motorists,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

“We will be watching closely, as part of our monitoring role, to see that this occurs and will report accordingly.

“It is also important to note that as prices fall, the petrol retailers will move prices at different times, so it will pay to shop around.”

PUMP prices
What you paid for fuel in Warwick yesterday:

Unleaded: 129.9
Diesel 136.9

Caltex (Albion St)
Unleaded: 129.9
Diesel: 120.9

BP (Albion St)
Unleaded: 122.9
Diesel: 119.9

Unleaded: 128.7
Diesel: 116.7

BP Koremans Store
Unleaded: 129.9
Diesel: 121.9.

Caltex (Wallace St)
Unleaded: 129.9
Diesel: 121.9

Extracted from South Burnett Times