THE Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is investigating whether grocery giant Coles contravened an agreement on fuel discounts by offering its flybuys customers 10c to 24c a litre off petrol.

Last Thursday, the same day petrol prices across Brisbane skyrocketed over 20c a litre, Coles sent an email to eligible flybuys customers offering an immediate 10c a litre off, an additional 4c off with a Coles supermarket voucher, and a further 10c off for any $20 spent in an accompanying Coles Express outlet.

The voucher was valid for a week, and could be used multiple times for up to 24c off per litre.

The ACCC told The Courier-Mail it would approach Coles to determine if the offer was within the rules and conditions of an agreement struck with Coles and Woolworths in late 2013.

Both retailers agreed to cease supermarket-funded fuel offers of over 4c a litre from January 1, 2014.

The undertaking was made after the ACCC raised concerns that discounts of 8c or over seriously disadvantaged independent operators.

However the two companies were still able to offer discounts of over 4c at their service stations, provided the discounts were funded from within their fuel retailing operations.

An ACCC spokesman said it was unclear if Coles had contravened the undertaking, and the watchdog would been seeking an explanation about the eligibility of the offers.

At the time of accepting the undertakings, the ACCC commented that it was concerned about any other fuel discount offers funded by non-fuel-retailing operations, and any other fuel discount offers above 4c a litre which were conditional on purchases of goods or services other than at a petrol outlet.

“Whether or not the discounts raise concerns will depend on the nature of the offer, for example whether they are linked to previous purchases of fuel from a Coles Express service station or conditional on a consumer purchasing items from a Coles Express service station,” he said.

“We continue to hold these concerns, and will seek clarification from Coles to determine whether the offer complies with the obligations in their undertaking.”

A Coles spokesman said the company had not breached its undertaking with the ACCC, and the deal was not reliant on purchases from their supermarkets.

“Coles in 2013 voluntarily gave an undertaking in which it agreed to limit fuel discounts linked to purchases in businesses other than Coles Express to a maximum of 4c per litre,” he said.

“The recent flybuys offer was not contingent on any purchase from Coles supermarkets, and is no different to previous offers.”

Extracted from Herald Sun