Supermarkets control fuel prices

Energy Matters0

“We were not prepared to see independents rubbed out,” he said.

He said the association had lobbied the Federal Government to allow some flexibility for independent stations to lower, but not raise, their prices in the middle of the day, but the submissions were rejected.

Since the supermarket chains had entered the petrol market, the rate of independent closures had doubled, he said.

“We are reaching the stage where the supermarkets set the (petrol) prices. The future of discounted petrol is in the hands of two companies – and that’s frightening.”

Consumer groups had mixed reactions to today’s decision, saying that while FuelWatch had encountered many “political icebergs”, motorists still deserved transparency on petrol prices.

Choice spokesman Christopher Zinn said the organisation was “generally in support of measures that give price transparency, but (we are) also in support of things that increase competition”.

Mr Zinn said there were plenty of arguments in support and against FuelWatch, but that the Western Australia scheme was proof a national scheme could lead to “consumer enhancements”.

But Mr Bowden argued there had been no conclusive evidence that the WA FuelWatch-style scheme worked, as the west coast worked on a fornightly, not weekly, petrol price cycle.

With petrol prices coming down – some tip they will reach $1 per litre by Christmas – Mr Zinn said the need for a FuelWatch-style scheme was not as pressing, but that it would likely reappear in another incarnation in the future.

“The original plan was to introduce the scheme by Christmas – that’s obviously not going to happen now,” he said.

“[But] petrol prices are down, so that gives us some wiggle room to get it right.”

Meanwhile, the RACQ has called on the Federal Government to rein in oil companies’ stranglehold on wholesale petrol, a move supported by the SSA.

Gary Fites, RACQ’s general manager of external relations, said the motoring body had long argued for independent retailers to enjoy greater access to alternative sources of wholesale petrol.

“(This) is the key to a better deal (for) motorists,” Mr Fites said.

“The four oil majors’ control of all but a handful of terminal facilities currently puts independent retailers at a real price disadvantage against the oil companies’ own sites and the major supermarket chains.”

Mr Fites said the viability of independet fuel retailers was key to a “fair deal on fuel” for motorists.

“The Government should now be actively investigating how it can encourage more competition at the wholesale level by removing impediments to other potential importers of refined fuels having access to terminal facilities.”

Mr Fites said the FuelWatch model would not have worked in South-East Queensland, where prices “actually fell six days each week”.