FILLING up at independent service stations is Melbourne motorists’ best bet for saving a buck at the bowser.

New research by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission points the finger at major retailers for charging above-average prices.

It has urged drivers to shop around, saying customers had the power to roll back the escalating cost of fuel.

The new data, handed down in the ACCC’s first government-ordered quarterly review, showed prices for petrol varied significantly across Australia.

But Woolworths and independent retailers generally ­offered the cheapest options in five capital cities, it said, while Coles Express generally had the most expensive fuel.

But the Australasian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association yesterday claimed it was unfair to focus on specific retailers.

Chief executive Mark McKenzie said the findings offered only a narrow argument.

“It is inappropriate for the ACCC to imply that people should go elsewhere,’’ he said.

He said the watchdog also incorrectly assumed every ­retailer paid the same wholesale price for fuel.

The report detailed prices, costs and profits across major cities, and follows an order by Treasurer Scott Morrison in December to the ACCC to keep the industry in check.

Across Melbourne, it found the average price per litre of fuel at five major retailers including United, 7-Eleven, Woolworths, and a string of smaller independents was consistently below the market average of $1.28. The average prices at three major retailers including Coles Express were all above the market average.

A spokesman for Coles Express said yesterday it sought to be competitive. “In addition to the 4c-per-litre discount voucher received when spending at least $30 in Coles supermarkets, customers can save 10c per litre by spending a minimum $20 in Coles Express stores. The discounts can be used separately or combined to save a total of 14c per litre,” he said.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims said it might be time for consumers to consider which station to fill up at.

“Adjusting buying habits can save motorists a lot of money,’’ he said. The difference in prices on average across Melbourne retailers was 3.6 cents per litre.

Extracted from Herald Sun.