Price-signalling case dropped: real-time price boards to come into play

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has resolved Federal Court proceedings against Informed Sources (Australia) Pty Ltd and four petrol retailers in relation to the petrol-price-information-exchange service operated by Informed Sources.

The ACCC took proceedings against Informed Sources and several petrol retailers that subscribe to the service, including BP Australia Pty Ltd (BP), Caltex Australia Petroleum Pty Ltd (Caltex), Woolworths Ltd (Woolworths) and 7-Eleven Stores Pty Ltd (7-Eleven).

“I welcome and appreciate the decision of Informed Sources and the petrol retailers to make the pricing information available to consumers at the same time the retailers receive it,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said. “This will help consumers make better and more informed decisions about where and when to buy petrol, by helping them identify the best time to buy and the sites with the lowest price.”

The ACCC alleges that the price-information-exchange service in its current form allows those retailers to communicate with each other about their prices and has the effect or likely effect of substantially lessening competition for the sale of petrol in Melbourne.

Under the Informed Sources service, these petrol retailers currently exchange, site by site, petrol prices covering most of Australia every 15 or 30 minutes.

“The resolution of this matter will enable consumers to access petrol prices in their local area or in areas along their journey,” Mr Sims said. “These prices will be updated every 15 or 30 minutes.

“Another key outcome is the availability of the retail price information to third-party service providers. This will promote innovation in the provision of petrol-price information, to the benefit of consumers.”

The retail petrol-pricing data will also be available to consumer, motoring and research organisations. “The ACCC believes that this will facilitate improved competition among petrol retailers,” Mr Sims said.

BP, Caltex, Woolworths and 7-Eleven have agreed that they will not enter into or give effect to any price-information-exchange service unless the information each receives is made available to consumers and third-party organisations at the same time.

Informed Sources has agreed that it will not supply the information-exchange service unless the pricing information it provides to petrol retailers is made available to consumers for free and to third parties on reasonable commercial terms at the same time.

While they subscribe to a price-information-exchange service, the parties have agreed to allow the petrol pricing information to be made available to consumers and third-party organisations for a period of five years, beginning in mid-2016.

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