ACT wants to expand the app-based NSW FuelCheck system across the border

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has written to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian asking for a NSW scheme to be extended into the ACT as a key measures to prevent territory motorists continually being ripped off at the bowser.

FuelCheck was set up under NSW Fair Trading in July 2016 and all operators of NSW service stations were required to sign up.

The NSW government tool is regarded as one of the more successful and transparent schemes operating across the country as it has a state-backed compliance requirement.

More then 570,713 drivers and 2512 service stations across NSW are registered by the scheme which not only gives price reports but provides directions to service stations, trading hours, the fuel type and brand available.

Data gathered from FuelCheck by the NSW government revealed that independent service stations consistently sell cheaper fuel, there can be more than a 20 cent price difference in fuel between service stations in the same suburb, and the cheapest day to fill up is Saturday.

Importantly, it also has a reporting mechanism to Fair Trading when prices shown on the app don’t match those charged at the bowser. Compliance officers are then tasked to investigate the reason for the discrepancy.

Should the NSW government agree to the use of its online tool, compliance within the ACT would have to shift to the ACT Office of Fair Trading which already has certain powers under the Fair Trading (Fuel Prices) Act 1993 but would need those powers extended.

The government had promised to respond by early this year to the outcomes of two major 2019 inquiries into ACT fuel prices, one by the Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission and another by a select committee of the ACT Legislative Assembly.

A community survey ahead of the Assembly inquiry found that 93.5 per cent of Canberra motorists believed they paid more for their fuel in the ACT than across the border in NSW, and 85.5 per cent believed there was not adequate competition among fuel companies in the ACT.

This was supported by the commission’s own survey data which found that between 2012-13 and 2018-19, the annual average fuel prices in Canberra were around 1.7 cents per litre higher than in surrounding NSW towns such a Goulburn, Yass, Cooma and even Batemans Bay and Nowra.

“Canberra’s higher average net retail margin [on fuel] likely reflects weaker competition in Canberra,” the commission’s report found.

In December last year the Chief Minister wrote to independent retailers operating in NSW to encourage them to enter the ACT market.

Only one interstate discount petrol retailer, Metro, has recently invested in the ACT market. It opened a new service station in Mitchell in early December and has consistently undercut one of the cheapest fuel outlets in Canberra, Costco at Majura.

The government also said it had “commenced discussions with several more [retailers]” to help drive petrol prices down.

It also intends to commission “ongoing analysis and reporting on the ACT fuel market to increase transparency and place a continuing eye” on fuel prices in the territory.


Extracted from Canberra Times

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