ACCC takes bite out of gouging petrol companies

THE Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has bared its teeth to the big petrol retail chains and is looking to show it does indeed have bite to go with its bark.

The ACCC has taken action in the Federal Court against Queensland company Informed Sources and retailers BP, Caltex, Coles Express, Woolworths and 7-Eleven alleging they co-ordinated petrol price movements resulting in higher prices at the pump for customers.

Informed Sources owns Oil Price Watch which provides subscribers with petrol prices from service station chains with membership restricted to the latter.

The Informed Sources service covers most capital cities and many regional centres across Australia.

The ACCC alleges that a retailer can propose a petrol price, see how other retailers react to it and change it accordingly and in so doing is increasing co-operation and price co-ordination and decreasing competition.

"Given the importance of price competition in petrol retailing, the ACCC is concerned that consumers may be paying more for petrol as a result," said ACCC chairman Rod Sims.

The ACCC has asked the court to ban the alleged price co-ordination and impose pecuniary penalties saying that although it was difficult to quantify the likely effect on petrol prices of the Informed Sources arrangements with petrol retailers or of shopper docket discounts above 4 cents, it notes that even a small increase in petrol pricing can have a significant impact on consumers overall.

For example, if net petrol prices increase by 1c per litre over a year, the loss to Australian consumers would be around $190 million for the year.


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