Competition a brake on petrol prices: ACCC

James Hall
(Australian Associated Press)

 

Petrol prices in some parts of the country have hit a four-year high just in time for the school holidays, but the consumer watchdog says competition among retailers is keeping increases to a minimum.

The national average price of unleaded petrol rose 0.6 cents last week to 152.8 cents a litre, according to the Australian Institute of Petroleum, while Adelaide drivers had the most pain at the bowser with a price of 157.9 cents – up 5.9 cents in a week to the highest since January 2014.

The nationwide average is 21.7 per cent higher than a year earlier.

Nonetheless, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says there is a greater diversity of petrol retailers compared to 15 years ago, which helps limit the impact of price increases.

“New retailers entering the market, for example, can have a positive impact on competition as businesses fight for market share,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said in a report published on Tuesday.

“This can help bring down prices, as we have recently seen in the Cairns petrol market.”

Major brands including Caltex and BP, which refine and wholesale petrol as well as sell it at retail, made up 83 per cent of ACCC monitored sales in 2002/03.

In 2016/17, that share of the market had fallen to 38 per cent.

Large chains 7-Eleven, United, Puma Energy and On The Run more than quadrupled market share over the period, rising from six per cent to 25 per cent.

Limits to docket discounts following ACCC intervention, as well as changes to supermarkets’ business arrangements, contributed to a decline in Coles’ and Woolworths’ market share since 2012/13.

“For many consumers, price is the most important factor when determining where to buy petrol,” Mr Sims said.

“More players in the market means more options of where to buy petrol.”

Global Benchmark Brent crude jumped overnight to a four-year high above $US80 a barrel after Saudi Arabia and Russia ruled out any immediate increase in production despite calls by US President Donald Trump for action to raise global supply.

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