(Australian Associated Press)
Consumers will be able to browse the bowsers online after a price-sharing website used by Australia’s fuel giants agreed to freely share their data.
The country’s consumer watchdog dropped its Federal Court case against BP, Caltex, Woolworths and 7-Eleven on Wednesday after Informed Sources consented to sharing its figures with consumers.
Informed Sources is a price information sharing website and app that lists petrol pump prices every 15 or 30 minutes.
The ACCC had previously alleged the retailers were using the service to collude on petrol prices.
It launched legal proceedings in August 2014 that alleged the third-party website made it easier for fuel companies to control petrol prices and could significantly lessen competition in Melbourne, subsequently breaching consumer law.
However, the site has since agreed data will only be supplied to petrol retailers if it is made available to consumers for free, and to third parties on reasonable commercial terms, at exactly the same time.
“The ACCC believes that greater transparency of petrol prices and the behaviour of petrol retailers across Australia will reduce the potential for any adverse effect of the Informed Sources service on competition,” ACCC chairman Rod Simms said in a statement.
He said it would instead create greater competition in petrol pricing as consumers could access the information “in their local area or areas along their journey”.
NRMA spokesman Peter Khoury said the agreement is a “spectacular victory for Australian motorists”.
“The public were not armed to be able to compare prices between the cheapest service stations and the most expensive,” he told reporters in Sydney.
Mr Khoury said access to real-time information will help consumers decide where to fill up.
Independent Senator Nick Xenophon has welcomed the settlement but slammed the ACCC for its “ill-conceived prosecution” of Informed Sources and demanded the watchdog pay the company’s $1.2 million in legal fees.
“The whole prosecution has cost millions and it could have been avoided with common-sense discussions, which would have meant consumers would have got the benefit of this real-time information years earlier,” he said in a statement.
Mr Xenophon plans to write to the watchdog and the finance minister seeking an “act of grace payment” to the data company for a refund of its legal costs.
Coles Express were previously included in the court proceedings, however the retailer agreed earlier this month to terminate its subscription to the service when its contract ends in April 2016.
The petrol giant further agreed not to use Informed Sources, or a similar price information service, for a period of five years.