ACCC says petrol prices low, margins high

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has delivered a report on the petroleum industry in Australia for the June quarter 2017, showing retail margins remained high despite a drop in petrol prices.

The report found that motorists were benefiting from the cheapest petrol prices since 2002.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the ACCC believed the prices should have been even lower due to continued high gross retail margins.

In a statement, the ACCC said average gross retail margins in the five largest cities in the June quarter decreased by 0.6 cents per litre (cpl) from the previous quarter.

“On an annual average basis, however, gross retail margins in real terms remain the highest since the ACCC began monitoring them in 2002,” it said.

The ACCC said the increase could have occurred due to regulatory and compliance costs but it believed that this was not a satisfactory explanation for the swift rise in margins.

Mr Sims said:“Prices at the pump in 2016-17 are reflecting the relatively low international price of refined petrol which fortunately is a result of the OPEC cartel failing to successfully restrict the supply of crude oil.”

Annual average retail petrol prices in the five largest cities in nominal and real terms: 2000-01 to 2016-17. Source: ACCC

“Of the price paid at the bowser, 42 per cent is the international price of refined petrol. Another 42 per cent is taxes (i.e. GST and excise).”

The ACCC found that regional areas were also affected by high margins, with three out of four areas studied remaining above competitive cost-based pricing in the June quarter.

Annual average retail margins in the five largest cities in real terms: 2002-03 to 2016-17. Source: ACCC

Mr Sims said motorists in the regional areas of Launceston, Armidale and Cairn were paying too much for their petrol.

“We encourage people to use fuel price apps to locate petrol stations in their area with relatively lower prices,” he said.

“Competition is driven by the willingness of motorists to shop around for the best price. For example, in Cairns, motorists that shop around can find petrol that is consistently around 10 cpl lower than the average.

“The ACCC will continue to monitor fuel prices in all these regional towns in its quarterly petrol reports.”


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