Earlier this year, the NT Government commenced a public consultation on a government proposal designed to increase the transparency of fuel prices for Territorians.
The proposal, which was part of a commitment made by the NT Chief Minister during the 2016 Election campaign, consisted of two elements.
The first element proposed the prohibition of discounted fuel prices. The proposal, which appears to have been largely modelled on similar legislation recently introduced in Victoria and Tasmania, prohibits the display of discounted fuel prices but would still allow the fuel retailer to advertise that discounts in fuel prices are available.
“In other words, the fuel prices displayed for each product on the price board must be the undiscounted price”, said ACAPMA CEO Mark McKenzie.
The second element – dubbed MyFuelNT – involved the introduction of a compulsory fuel price reporting scheme. This proposal was modelled on the FuelCheck legislation introduced in NSW in August 2016 and requires that all NT fuel retailers notify the NT Government every time they change fuel prices.
ACAPMA, together with other industry stakeholders, provided several submissions to the subsequent consultative process on the two proposals.
“We did not oppose the implementation of the new rate board changes but suggested that there was a need to allow a period of six months for implementation of these changes”, said Mark.
“In respect of MyFuelNT, we cautioned strongly against the wholesale adoption of the NSW FuelCheck model given past adverse experiences with the operation of this model for industry and consumers alike”, Mark continued.
Coincidentally, the NSW Premier launched an improved fuel price reporting app for the FuelCheck initiative earlier this week.
The announcement was shortly followed by the release of an investigative media report into the 12-month performance of FuelCheck. The report cast serious doubts on the NSW Government claim that FuelCheck provides real-time fuel prices from all fuel retail sites in NSW and many elements of the story were consistent with the experiences of some ACAPMA members (https://acapmag.com.au/home/2017/10/petrol-prices-fuelcheck-website-600-stations-last-month/).
“The strong assertion by both the NSW (and NT) Government is that they can manage fuel price reporting schemes better than industry but, at least to date, the Fuel Check scheme does not appear to deliver any consumer benefit over and above existing industry reporting schemes like Motormouth and Gas Buddy”, said Mark.
Nonetheless, the NT Government pressed ahead with the proposed laws and the NT Parliament formally approved the laws on 27 September 2017.
The new laws come into effect for all NT fuel retailers on 1 November 2017 and will be administered by Northern Territory Consumer Affairs. Details of the new legislation can be found at: https://legislation.nt.gov.au/Subordinate-Legislation/Consumer-Affairs-and-Fair-Trading-Fuel-Retailers-Regulations.
“Under the new laws, fuel retailers will be required to register with the Government and report changes to fuel prices as soon as practical after the change is made”, said Mark
Given the significant issues experienced with the implementation of Fuel Check in NSW, ACAPMA will be monitoring the implementation of MyFuelNT. Any members experiencing issues in this area are encouraged to contact the ACAPMA Secretariat on 1300 160 270 or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.