More motorists have turned to fuel price comparison apps and websites to seek out the cheapest fuel, as petrol prices hit a 18-month high in the December quarter, new data shows.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s ninth quarterly report on the Australian petroleum industry found that prices in the country’s five largest cities – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth – rose by 7.8 cents per litre.

“Average retail prices in the December quarter 2016 in the largest cities were the highest since the June quarter 2015, while gross retail margins also increased in the quarter,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

Gross retail margins, the difference between retail prices and wholesale prices, also rose, by just under one cent a litre to 11.3 cents per litres.

The price rise was largely due to an agreement announced by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in late November to limit crude oil production, the ACCC says.

“Cartel conduct leads to higher prices and economic harm and, in this case, it has meant higher prices at the pump for Australian motorists.

“In this higher price environment, it is even more important for motorists to shop around for cheaper petrol prices.”

ACCC data found that the use of petrol pricing apps and websites was more than five times greater in the December quarter of 2016, with 21 million hits compared to four million in the prior corresponding period.

“The increasing popularity of these websites and apps, and the ability of some to crowd source price data, is helping people play an active role in finding cheaper petrol prices and helping discounting petrol retailers broadcast their lower prices,” Mr Sims said.

“The more people that use these websites and apps, the more powerful a role they can play in helping consumers get the lowest prices.”

The ACCC said advantageous timing of petrol purchases and choosing the lowest priced retailer could save motorists around $10 to $15 per 60 litre tank of petrol.

“In this higher price environment, it is even more important for motorists to shop around for cheaper petrol prices.”

Extracted from Yahoo!7