Labor suggests NSW site, Fuel Check, could be disadvantaging motorists

The NSW opposition has called for a parliamentary inquiry into the impact of fuel monitoring websites, amid revelations they are disadvantaging motorists.

Shadow Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation, Yasmin Catley, questioned the logic of the NSW fuel monitoring website Fuel Check this week, pointing to a similar inquiry that recently concluded in Victoria.

Using evidence from a recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report, Catley hit out at such websites and said they created an environment for collusion, allowing major retailers to lift prices and put smaller operators out of business.

“Victoria has held an exhaustive inquiry into this matter, and have pointed out that schemes like Fuel Check discourage aggressive pricing and do not lead to lower petrol prices,” Catley said.

“In fact, evidence from OECD reports and other industry experts suggest otherwise – that they reduce competition and lead to higher prices.

“Labor is calling for a Parliamentary inquiry to get to the real truth behind the Government’s Fuelcheck scheme and its impact on petrol pricing.”

The Victorian inquiry recently found that “there is no evidence that mandatory fuel price reporting has reduced fuel prices in the jurisdictions where it operates”.

Catley said that such information provided live information to fuel sellers, a factor which was prone to increased collusion between major retailers.

The NSW Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation, Matt Kean, rejected Ms Catley’s sentiments. Speaking with Fairfax Media, he slammed the proposal as politicking.

“Kevin Rudd tried and failed to get real-time petrol prices to Australians. It is typical Labor hypocrisy to complain when a Liberal government delivers a system that works,” Kean said.

“The claim that FuelCheck reduces competition is completely false. FuelCheck helps consumers find the cheapest petrol and encourages petrol stations to compete on price. This is why IPART has endorsed FuelCheck.

“Publishing petrol prices has actually taken power away from big retailers on major thoroughfares, and given independent operators the chance to advertise their competitive prices to far more consumers.”

Petrol prices in Australia recently reached a two-year high, despite the advent of consumer websites designed to provide live information.

The spike comes as retailer margins climb to their highest margins since the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission began recording prices in 2002.

 Extracted from Car Sales.