Pressure builds on high fuel prices

GILMORE MP Ann Sudmalis will meet the Minister for Small Business Bruce Billson next week to discuss petrol prices in the Shoalhaven, calling on the ACCC to investigate why prices are so high.

The move comes as the consumer watchdog has accused big petrol station chains BP, Caltex, Coles, Woolworths and 7-Eleven of using website Informed Sources to co-ordinate fuel prices, saying it is concerned the practice led to higher costs to motorists.

Mrs Sudmalis wants the ACCC to include the electorate as part of a trial, analysing regional petrol prices.

“Parliament sits next week and I have a meeting with Minister Billson and will raise this issue with him,” she said.

“I want to try to set up a strategy for the region, with the ACCC specifically looking at petrol pricing and reasons for the high prices being paid in Gilmore.”

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims said by sharing petrol price information in close to real time, the retailers and Informed Sources reduced competition.

“The ACCC alleges the arrangements were likely to increase retail petrol price co-ordination and co-operation, and were likely to decrease competitive rivalry,” Mr Sims said.

“Given the importance of price competition in petrol retailing, the ACCC is concerned that consumers may be paying more for petrol as a result.”

Informed Sources provides subscribers with petrol prices from the service station chains, delayed by half an hour.

Mr Sims said the retailers used the site as a “near real-time communication device in relation to petrol pricing”.

“In particular, it is alleged that retailers can propose a price increase to their competitors and monitor the response to it,” he said.

Informed Sources has been under investigation by the ACCC since May 2012, with Mr Sims telling an estimates committee at the time “We are concerned at companies in a market having access to real-time information that can allow them to quickly tell whether their competitors are responding to what they’re doing.”

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