Information sharing investigated as petrol prices continue to rise

A formal investigation has been launched by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to determine if fuel retailers are ‘playing fair’ when it comes to competition in the industry.
The watchdog is concerned that petrol price sharing arrangements in the industry, which allow for the private and frequent exchange of price information between the major fuel retailers, could be breaching the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.
The ACCC stated it was concerned that the sharing of information could allow petrol retailers to signal price movements, monitor competitors’ responses and react quickly to them in order to keep prices high.
ACCC executive general manager Joe Dimasi said the industry had already been warned about this issue.
“The ACCC has put the industry on notice for some time about its concerns in this area,” he said.
The Act bans contracts, arrangements or understandings that have a detrimental effect on competition between retailers. ACCC chairman Rod Sims said a dedicated team had been assigned to investigate the matter.
“While the ACCC does not usually comment on its current investigations, the ACCC considered it appropriate to inform the public that it is undertaking this investigation, given the significant public interest regarding petrol pricing,” he said.
Petrol prices in Australia have been steadily increasing in the past 14 years, with many analysts predicting prices will continue to rise.
Federal Small Business, Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs shadow minister Bruce Billson said the investigation was welcome news and that he hoped the investigation would result in better prices. “Australian families are just weeks away from being slogged with the world’s biggest carbon tax, so hopefully the investigation will deliver a better deal for motorists,” he said. Royal Automobile Club of Queensland general manager for external relations Paul Turner agreed the inquiry was welcome. “The announcement of this ACCC probe is good news. We have been calling for the ACCC to launch a formal inquiry into retail fuel prices in Australia for a year now,” he said.
The ACCC stated that it would not make any public comment during the process of the investigation, which it anticipated would “take some time” to complete.


By Courtney Pearson

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