While the cost of petrol is a common gripe, an investigation of the major fuel sellers has found price competition alive and well – with some operators standing out for higher prices than their peers.
The ACCC conducted a detailed investigation into petrol prices across Australia’s five main capital cities – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth – and found that average prices could vary by as much as 9.5 cents per litre across the major brands.
“Independent chains were the lowest priced in each of the five major cities and Woolworths was generally below the market average price in most cities,” ACCC chair Rod Sims explained.
“Average prices at retail sites where BP and Caltex head office sets the retail price were generally above the market average price.”
Coles Express took the wooden spoon when it came to price competitiveness, with Mr Sims noting that “average prices at Coles Express were the highest in all five cities”.
“Our analysis of petrol prices shows the range between major retailers with the highest average price and lowest average price varied across each city considerably.”
In Melbourne, average prices per litre varied by around 3.6 cents. In Sydney, however, that variance was much more pronounced, with differences of up to 9.5 cents.
Additionally, the price range of the major retailers was also found to have widened markedly over the last decade.
As a result, Mr Sims urged consumers and businesses to reconsider where they fill up in order to achieve substantial reductions on their fuel bills.
“The majority of consumers tend to go to the same petrol station every time they fill up. This research shows it might be time to consider which station to fill up at,” he said.
“What this analysis tells us is the decision about which retailer to buy petrol from is even more important in 2017 than it was in 2007. Retailers’ prices are not the same, they price differently and have different strategies to get you to fill up with them.”
Mr Sims added: “Shopping around has the added benefit of increasing competition by putting pressure on retailers who charge the most to lower their prices or risk losing customers.”
Meanwhile it’s not all good news from the fuel industry, with the ACCC in February accusing retailers of price gouging by hiking their margins to record levels.
Anyone using their vehicle for work-related travel is also reminded to keep receipts, given that the Tax Office has warned it will be clamping down heavily on people taking a “free ride” on car-related deductions.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.