The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will closely monitor petrol prices over the Christmas period after a commission study revealed prices had peaked in some Australian capital cities.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims said this meant prices should fall at a time when petrol demand is at its highest, bringing welcome relief to motorists.
“Sales of petrol across Australia are at their highest in the latter half of December, so the fact that prices should be decreasing, albeit from high levels, during a period of high demand will be some comfort to motorists,” Mr Sims said.
“We will be watching closely, as part of our monitoring role, to see that this occurs and will report accordingly.”
Despite that warning, Mr Sims advised motorists to “shop around” as petrol retailers move prices at different times.
“Motorists should keep an eye on petrol price movements and use the increasing number of fuel price apps available to help them decide when and where to buy petrol. These apps show that petrol prices do sometimes significantly vary in many buying areas.”
Mr Sims said prices had already begun to fall in one capital city.
“Prices have been decreasing slowly in Melbourne and we expect them to continue falling. In Perth prices cycles are extremely regular lasting seven days, and we expect that prices will go up Tuesday as usual and be at their cheapest on Monday.”
NRMA spokesperson Peter Khoury said his organisation supported the ACCC’s price monitoring activity.
“The ACCC is right to call out the oil companies. Sydney is facing the longest high point of a cycle in 2016 and the fact that it has occurred just before Christmas we don’t believe is coincidental, and it is very poor form,” Mr Khoury said.
“Historically naming and shaming has been enough to bring prices down. We’ve seen it in recent times outside of Sydney where either the ACCC or the NRMA have launched a specific campaign in a location where we think prices are too high, and then those prices came down not long after that.
“We are not saying that they shouldn’t make a buck, of course they should but there is a broad understanding in the community about where prices should be at any point in the cycle. When we look at the [currency exchange rate] and world oil prices we know what the price should be and when it is significantly higher than it should be, which is where we currently are in Sydney, then it is important to call it out.”
Mr Khoury also backed the ACCC’s call for motorists to use fuel apps, saying the technology is an effective means of finding the cheapest prices.
“Through our app you can get the actual real time price for every service station in NSW. With that information now in the hands of motorists, the major oil companies, the Coles and Woolies alliance servos, the ones that are consistently the most expensive, they can charge what they want because now people can just drive past that service station to the one around the corner that is significantly cheaper.”