Canberrans are being ripped off at the bowser with households paying on average $450 more on fuel than motorists in NSW every year.
The Canberra Liberals calculated the figure based on recent fuel figures, with Canberra prices often 20c to 30c per litre more than in NSW. Based on the average consumption of fuel for passenger vehicles per household in 2015-16, the Liberals said ACT households may have saved hundreds of dollars had they bought petrol over the border.
“We’re being ripped off. Fuel in the ACT is costing Canberrans $453 too much, on a conservative calculation,” Canberra Liberals Leader Alistair Coe said.
“We need to take action to stop the gouging. A Canberra Liberals government will introduce a real-time fuel watch scheme to help bring down Canberra’s out-of-control petrol prices.
“Under our scheme, we will trial capping fuel prices for 24-hour blocks. The price cap will allow petrol retailers to drop fuel prices to compete for business, but not raise them.
“This will strengthen transparency, competition and predictability of Canberra’s fuel market, putting pressure on retailers to sell petrol at a cheaper rate.”
NRMA spokesperson Peter Khoury said petrol pricing is an issue in the ACT, with Canberra consistently one of the highest priced capital cities for petrol.
This is reflected in findings from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) September quarter petrol monitoring report, which showed that Canberra, Hobart and Darwin prices were always higher than in the five largest cities.
According to the report, in the September quarter 2018, average retail prices in Canberra were 155.0 cpl, which was 8.3 cpl higher than in the five largest cities (146.7 cpl).
Mr Khoury said the high prices come from a lack of competition in the local market, while Canberra also doesn’t have a price cycle like other locations.
“It doesn’t occur at all in Canberra. You don’t see any fluctuations,” he said.
In terms of a real-time fuel watch scheme, Mr Khoury said it is something he believes has the potential to influence petrol prices as it gives people more information and “encourages competition because stations have to fight to get the customer”.
The ACT Government acknowledges that price gouging and market failures continue to hurt ACT motorists but questions the efficacy of fuel watch schemes.
“Fuel watch schemes certainly provide more information to motorists on fuel prices but, unfortunately, there is no guarantee that they have any impact on fuel prices,” a spokesperson for the Chief Minister said.
According to the spokesperson, there have been efforts in the past to operate independent fuel watch applications in the ACT. A previous effort which relied on information provided by the public has been migrated to be readily available through the Petrol Spy app.
“Duplicating Petrol Spy with a government run fuel watch scheme would have administrative costs associated with it, and this cost would be met by Canberrans,” the spokesperson said.
The government also expressed concern about the 24-hour notification rules (such as those operating in WA) as, according to the ACCC, it can actually reduce competition, because a supplier who discovers a nearby competitor has a lower price cannot reduce its own petrol price for at least a day.
“This is a risk that would have to be addressed in any 24-hour price fixing scheme operating in the ACT,” the spokesperson said.
Mr Coe will write to the ACCC to request an investigation into Canberra’s petrol prices. The ACT Government said they will also continue to lobby the ACCC.