Earlier this year, the Queensland Government announced that it intended to introduce a two-year trial of fuel price reporting in Queensland and would work with key stakeholders to develop an appropriate solution as soon as practical.

The Queensland Government’s announcement followed sustained pressure from the RACQ and others, some of whom had falsely claimed that the introduction of the NSW Fuel Check Initiative had resulted in a lowering of average fuel prices Sydney by around 10cpl – or $6 per average fill.

ACAPMA’s starting point was to totally debunk the notion that fuel price reporting lower average market prices – as opposed to alerting motorists to the fact that fuel prices can vary markedly on any given day.

“Any objective analysis of the ACCC’s regular quarterly analysis of average petrol prices in Australia’s capital cities reveals that the introduction of fuel price reporting laws in NSW and the Northern Territory has not had any material impact on average fuel prices in these jurisdictions”, said ACAPMA CEO Mark McKenzie.

Fuel price reporting doesn’t change the competitive structure of markets – it simply provides a mechanism for motorists to easily compare fuel prices in their local area.

“Fuel price reporting schemes that are advanced on the notion that they will somehow increase competition in markets that are already openly competitive are destined to fail”, said Mark.

The failure of Governments to take the time to develop fuel price reporting laws that are informed by a knowledge of the inherent downside risk is also a major concern.

The NSW Government rushed the implementation of its Fuel Check legislation and failed to consult properly with the industry. As a result, the early years of operation of NSW Fuel Check were plagued by data inconsistency and sporadic enforcement leading to some temporary distortions in market competition.

“We still argue that the NSW Fuel Check initiative was merely about providing political cover for its deeply flawed and unpopular biofuels mandate which is why the scheme experienced so many early problems”, said Mark.

In the Northern Territory, the experience was even more difficult with the NT Government simply copying the NSW approach and apparently ignoring industry feedback on the problems with the NSW model.

The result is that the NT Government is now presiding over a fuel price reporting scheme that has, according to the claims of some stakeholders, has resulted in an increase in average petrol prices in some areas of the Territory.

“The NSW and NT fuel price reporting laws were essentially rushed into operation without a real understanding of the market – an understanding that could have been secured by consulting with Industry’, said Mark.

“The Queensland Government, on the other hand, has taken the time to liaise with industry to understand the risks and then use this knowledge to develop a solution that meets the Government’s aims of making fuel prices visible in the digital space while minimising the compliance burden for industry”, said Mark.

The Queensland Government commissioned a working group in May 2018 (comprising consumer and industry stakeholders) to explore options for the compulsory reporting of fuel prices in that State.

“The discussion provided a genuine opportunity for us to discuss our concerns and experiences with past approaches while simultaneously developing a greater understanding of the issues for consumers and government”, said Mark

The Working Group Report was delivered back to the Government at the end of June 2018, culminating in this weeks announcement by the Queensland Energy Minister, The Hon. Dr Anthony Lynham, that the Government would introduce a compulsory fuel price reporting initiative from December 2018.

While some of the elements of this proposal are still to be developed the overall approach being pursued by the Queensland Government can be summarised as follows:

  • The compulsory fuel price reporting laws will be introduced on a two-year trial basis with a formal evaluation to be undertaken in 2020 before proceeding further.
  • The trial will allow fuel retailers to report information in three ways – (a) via utilisation of existing relationships with third party providers (e.g. Motormouth), (b) via access to data feeds from existing retailer websites, or (c) by reporting directly to government using a yet to be developed mobile app, website – or possibly even phone where access to connectivity to data networks is poor.
  • Rather than using tax payer funds to duplicate existing fuel price reporting schemes operated by industry, the Queensland Government will appoint an independent aggregator to collate fuel price information in near real time – and then make this data available to existing providers of fuel price information (e.g. Motor Mouth, Gas Buddy, RACQ etc)

The principal difference with the Queensland Scheme is that the Queensland Government has adopted a cooperative approach with industry – where the data collected under the new laws will be made available to enhance the quality of data provided by existing industry-operated fuel price reporting schemes operated by Informed Sources, GasBuddy and others.

“The approach taken by the Queensland Government is a model that other Australian Government’s would do well to follow, as it provides for the enhancement of fuel price transparency for motorists while simultaneously minimising the downside risks for government, consumers and industry alike”, concluded Mark.

ACAPMA understands that the full details of the scheme will be developed by the Queensland Government over coming months, with further opportunities for industry consultation scheduled between now and the formal launch of the trial in December 2018.

As details of the Queensland Fuel Price Reporting trial come to hand, ACAPMA will communicate this information to members. Further information can be obtained by emailing the ACAPMA Secretariat via communications@acapma.com.au