It’s Entirely Likely You’re Getting Gouged By Unfair Petrol Prices

Whilst city-dwelling types have been reaping the fruits of tumbling global oil prices over the past few weeks, with petrol prices in certain areas actually dipping below the mythical $1 per litre mark for the first time in well over six years, those of you in regional centres might still be feeling ever-so-slightly ripped off at the pump.

It seems like that’s not an unfounded sense of injustice you’re feeling, either. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has been keeping an eye on petrol prices across the country, and is at a complete loss to explain why exactly the big cities are getting cheaper petrol – in line with the falling global market – whilst those in regional and country areas aren’t having the same savings passed on.
The consumer watchdog has been under the pump to investigate the disparity, following evidence from the month of December that showed despite tumbling big city prices, regional customers were being slugged an extra 17 cents per litre on average – a far cry from the average disparity of 5.7 cents per litre from July of the same year.
Rod Sims, the chairman of the ACCC, spoke to ABC Radio and confirmed their awareness of the price gap.

I think you’d have to say the presumption is that there’s a bit of gouging going on in the sense that the price falls internationally aren’t being properly passed on into the market place. We need to get more evidence on that, but that’s how it looks at first glance.

The problem here, however, is that petrol prices aren’t regulated in Australia, and thus any findings of wrongdoing can’t legally compel petrol companies into lowering prices. But thanks to new compulsory information acquisition powers, the ACCC can publicly reveal profit margins of companies, empowering the consumer and hopefully shaming companies that are engaging in regional price gouging to lower their prices to match the rest of the local market.
Sims and the ACCC are launching an investigation into the practice, looking out for any activity that may represent inappropriate community behaviour.

Now what we’re likely to find is people making a lot of profit. We can shine a light on that and it could embarrass some people into lower prices. Just for consumers being more empowered with more information about what the profit margins are will, I think, drive more change and behaviour.

The ACCC will produce several reports into the issue, with the first due next month. The global oil price has fallen 60 percent since last July due to over supply and lowered demand.
So city kids, fill up and take full advantage of the basement prices for as long as you can. Regional friends? Your time to make it rain at the bowser mightn’t be too far away.
Photo: Scott Barbour via Getty Images.

via ABC News.