Fuel prices and margins drop

The ACCC’s September quarterly report on the Australian petroleum industry found that average petrol prices fell by 2.7 cents per litre (cpl) in the quarter. Retail margins also decreased to their lowest levels in real terms since the March quarter 2016.

The average petrol price in the five largest cities (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth) was 122.5 cpl in the September quarter 2017.

“Despite an increase in international refined petrol prices, influenced by the activities of the OPEC cartel, an increase in the AUD-USD exchange rate in the quarter meant that prices at the pump decreased to their lowest levels since late 2016,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

Retail prices in Brisbane were again the highest of the five largest cities, with an average price of 124.7 cpl, which was 2.7 cpl higher than the average across the other four largest cities. The ACCC released its report into the Brisbane petrol market last month, finding that retailers in Brisbane achieved higher margins and profits due to weak retail competition.

The ACCC’s report also looked into developments during the quarter in the four regional markets that the ACCC has studied in depth in recent years: Darwin, Launceston, Armidale and Cairns.

In Launceston, Armidale and Cairns, retail prices remained above a long-term competitive cost-based price in the September quarter 2017, while prices in Darwin remained around a long-term competitive cost-based price. However, in late October 2017, Darwin prices increased significantly despite little change in wholesale prices.

“While the unjustified recent increase in prices in Darwin is disappointing, motorists can use the various websites and apps to find the cheapest price,” Mr Sims said. “We welcome the increased transparency in the Darwin market following the introduction of the My Fuel NT website and encourage motorists to use the service to shop around.”

The ACCC’s September quarterly report found motorists in major cities could make significant savings by avoiding buying petrol at the peak of the price cycle.

The estimated overall savings for Sydney motorists over a year would be in the region of $85 million; estimated savings in Melbourne would be in the region of $75 million; Brisbane $40 million; and Adelaide $30 million.

Mr Sims says motorists can save 15-20 cpl, or $9-12 a tank by using the price cycle advice on the ACCC website, then using fuel-price-transparency apps or websites to find the most competitive fuel price nearby.

“There can be significant price differences between sites at different points in the price cycle, so motorists who shop around can save themselves a lot of money,” he said.

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