The competition and consumer watchdog said average retail prices in 2020–21 in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth were 129.7 cents per litre (cpl), a decrease of 4.9 cpl from 2019–20 (134.6 cpl).
In real terms, the last time annual average retail prices were lower than this was in 1998–99 when they were 115.0 cpl. Taxes accounted for 42% of the price, while the international price of refined petrol accounted for 39%.
Restrictions on travel and other economic activity first imposed in March 2020 caused significantly less petrol to be bought from retail sites — in fact, annual petrol sales for the 2020–21 financial year were 11% lower than in 2018–19, pre-pandemic.
“The pandemic has had an enormous impact on demand for petrol in Australia, going back to March last year, and this has influenced retail prices and gross retail margins,” said ACCC chair Rod Sims.
“While the June quarter 2021 results show only a relatively small drop in demand for petrol, millions of Australians have been in lockdown since the end of June 2021 and we will see the impact that’s had on fuel sales volumes in our September quarter 2021 report.”
However, prices have started to go up again in the second half of the year, as higher international refined petrol prices drove average retail petrol prices higher.
“Australian petrol prices reflect international refined petrol prices, so when prices go up in the Asia-Pacific region, motorists in Australia pay more for fuel,” Mr Sims said.
Meanwhile, the ACCC said fuel price transparency schemes, now available in most states, are allowing Australians to “compare prices and give their business to retailers who are pricing more competitively”.