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Public hearings begin into ACT fuel pricing

The first hearing on fuel pricing in the ACT was held on Thursday 14 March following more than 200 submissions to the inquiry.

The first hearing was with representatives of Informed Sources International. In its submission to the inquiry, Informed Sources notes it is Australia’s leading price monitoring service and makes fuel pricing data and other service available to fuel retailers, government and state government and motoring bodies.

In their submission, Informed Sources said that high petrol prices in the ACT are “due to the scarcity of aggressive independents” and that “regulation of price transparency is unnecessary and could even increase prices”.

Instead, they said the “solution is to facilitate entry of new independent sites across the ACT”. Their submission also acknowledged the alliance between Coles Group Limited and Viva Energy Limited (Viva Energy) as possibly having a modest impact on prices in the future.

Announced in February, under the alliance, Coles will receive a commission per litre from Viva Energy based on fuel volumes achieved. Furthermore, Viva Energy will be responsible for setting the retail price of fuel and receive the retail fuel margin. As a result, Coles will no longer have direct exposure to retail fuel price movements.

A second hearing was held on 18 March which featured the Australasian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers’ Association (ACPMA) and ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS).

Ahead of appearing as a witness to the inquiry, ACTCOSS Executive Director Susan Helyar said: “Fuel pricing is fundamentally a cost of living issue.”

“Our cost of living analysis shows that transport is the third biggest cost for low-income households in Canberra after housing and food,” Ms Helyar said.

“The volatile nature of fuel prices presents a challenge for these households that don’t have enough income to cover sudden and substantial price increases in essential items.

“Fuel prices rose by 15% in Canberra over the past year and by 29% over the past decade – this is higher than in any other Australian capital city. At the same time, low-income households have been put under more and more pressure as essential living costs have increased while their income has stayed the same.”

In the ACTCOSS submission, Ms Helyar said fuel pricing is just one element that needs to be addressed “as part of a comprehensive response to transport disadvantage in the ACT”.

Another public hearing on fuel pricing in the ACT is scheduled for Thursday 28 March. The Select Committee on Fuel Pricing has left its survey on fuel prices in the ACT open so that as many people as possible can have their say. The survey can be found at surveymonkey.com/r/FuelPricing

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