Petrol stations are trying to hoodwink motorists and cheat the Government’s FuelWatch service, which aims to help drivers fill up their tanks for as little as possible.

FuelWatch says some fuel brands are deliberately slashing prices at one or just a few petrol stations, which allows them to grab the daily headlines for Perth’s cheapest fuel.

They then increase the price at their other petrol stations across the metropolitan area, hoodwinking motorists who think they’re getting the best deal based on brand association.

“FuelWatch is aware of a pricing strategy employed by some of the brands where they price a few of their sites throughout the metropolitan area at well below the daily average,” FuelWatch coordinator Kyle Huynh told The Sunday Times.

“The purpose of this strategy is to have their brand feature in the media and on FuelWatch as the cheapest for that day, instilling an association of low prices with their brands.”

Mr Huynh said “most if not all brands employ the strategy”.

This week it was Caltex Woolworths, which on Monday was selling Perth’s cheapest fuel south of the river at its Warnbro Fair and Canning Vale servos for 109.7¢ a litre and the cheapest fuel north of the river at its Mirrabooka outlet for 108.9¢ a litre.

Yet the fuel company was selling unleaded for an average of 111.4¢ a litre across its metropolitan servos.

Last Monday, United Petroleum used the pricing strategy, with one outlet south of the river and one north of the river both selling the cheapest fuel in Perth at 107.1¢ a litre — yet United’s average price across the metropolitan area was more than 5¢ more expensive at 112.2¢ a litre.

United did not respond to calls and emails, while a Woolworths fuel spokesman denied the pricing strategy was designed to hoodwink motorists.

“We monitor local prices regularly and focus on ensuring we deliver competitive prices and great service to our customers. As required by WA law, our prices are published daily so our customers have full transparency on local fuel prices before they go to fill up,” the spokesman said.

Mr Huynh advised drivers to drop any brand loyalty because “on any given day the cheapest retailers can and do change”.

“Instead take the 30 seconds — that’s all it takes — to locate the cheapest fuel via the mobile friendly FuelWatch website,” he said.

A recent Australian Competition and Consumer Commission report found that profit margins added by petrol stations were at the highest recorded levels since monitoring began in 2002.

But the Australasian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association, the peak body for petrol retailers, says retailers are merely passing on rising costs.

Extracted from Perth Now