12
May

Tasmanians are being stifled by a lack of competition and transparency around petrol prices

For most families, petrol is one of those necessary evils in the household budget. When families look to tighten their belts, it’s not usually a cost that can be easily reduced or slashed as people rely on their cars to get to and from work, schools, shops, and to catch up with friends or family and attend medical appointments.

While the state has a bustling cycling community, public transport options are limited so Tasmanians do have a heavier reliance on their cars than those in other states, particularly in our major cities.

It’s this dependence that is fuelling anger among road users and our state’s leaders about how much we continue to pay at the bowser and how we are held to ransom for whatever our local station wants to charge.

The advice has always been to shop around. But Tasmania does not have legislation around mandatory fuel price reporting like other states, leaving drivers blind to what the cheapest prices nearby or just a short drive away might be.

Queensland has 11 separate apps drivers can check for live pricing as part of a state government two-year trial, while New South Wales has its government-run Fuel Watch website.

Tasmanians can download apps including PetrolSpy to give them an idea of what’s out there. But a quick glance at it yesterday showed prices at some outlets were more than two weeks old, with data reliant on drivers themselves taking the time to submit what price they paid instead of fuel retailers updating price changes.

There are also unofficial groups on Facebook. The Royal Automobile Club of Tasmania has an ongoing campaign for the State Government to pass legislation making it compulsory for fuel retailers to report their pump prices, a move still being considered.

Last week the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory governments threatened to cap prices and retail margins to deliver cost-of-living relief for motorists.

Franklin Labor MP Julie Collins is calling on Premier Peter Gutwein to do the same. Attorney-General Elise Archer has confirmed she recently wrote to the ACCC asking them to investigate the issue of many retailers in Tasmania not reducing prices in line with other jurisdictions.

The ACCC has confirmed to the Mercury it will soon respond to Ms Archer and that prices in Tasmania are too high. They noted that petrol prices in Tasmania have declined by about 30-35 cents a litre since the COVID-19 crisis started, but they have further to fall. In 2016, the body released a study of fuel prices in Launceston that found the price was about 10c a litre higher than in major capital cities.

While we know fuel prices are generally higher in regional Australia due to several factors, including lower population and demand, it seems clear Tasmanians are being stifled by a lack of competition and transparency.

While outlets may claim demand for fuel is low at this time, our consumer demand for a fair go at the pump remains high. The State Government must use the power under its parliamentary hood to give servo operators a revving when they try to gaslight us into thinking we’re getting a better deal, and also introduce laws to help us identify outlets giving us less of a pinch at the bowser.

 

Extracted from The Mercury