ACCC: petrol prices up in March quarter

The quarterly average price for petrol in the March quarter of 2017 was 129.1 cents per litre (cpl), which is the highest since the September quarter of 2015 (133.2cpl), according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s 10th quarterly report on the Australian petroleum industry.

Prices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth increased by 7.1cpl. Retail prices in Perth were the highest, with the average retail petrol price in Perth reaching 132.1cpl.

“Higher petrol prices were primarily due to increases in international crude oil and refined petrol prices following the agreement by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Companies cartel in November 2016 to limit crude-oil production,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

In addition to high prices, price cycles remain a concern, the report says, as the average price-cycle increase across the five largest cities was 19.3cpl, with the largest average increase in Adelaide at 24.8cpl and the smallest in Perth at 13.2cpl.

“Many motorists are annoyed by the price cycles in the larger cities, which are the result of the profit-maximising pricing policies of petrol retailers,” Mr Sims said. “The size of these price hikes, however, does show that motorists can benefit from using information from fuel-price apps to shop around as price-cycle increases vary across petrol stations.”

Motorists using the growing number of fuel-price apps, such as the MotorMouth app, the GasBuddy app and the FuelCheck website in NSW, were able to access site-specific petrol prices. Further initiatives in this area were announced in the March quarter this year by the Northern Territory and Tasmanian governments

ACCC’s report also noted that average gross retail margins in the five largest cities in the March quarter were 12.3cpl, an increase of 1cpl from the previous quarter. Margins in Perth and Melbourne in the March quarter of 2017 were the highest quarterly average margins in real terms since the ACCC began monitoring them in 2002.

“The ACCC believes that the increase in margins in recent quarters cannot be adequately explained by an increase in regulatory and compliance costs,” Mr Sims said.

“Petrol retail margins are currently higher than we think they should be.”

The ACCC collects retail petrol prices for all capital cities and more than 190 regional locations across Australia.

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