Australian fuel prices may finally be forced down by the nation’s competition and consumer commission (ACCC) – but not for a while.
Two separate areas of inquiry into petrol price fixing are under way. The first, the formal ACCC inquiry, which began in May 2012, is due to share its findings ‘in a few months’ according to ACCC Chairman, Rod Simms. This inquiry is seeking to confirm whether there is price fixing and sharing of price information by petrol retailers.
A separate investigation into ‘shopper dockets’ has been started, because of pressure from independent fuel retailers.
Discounts offered by Coles and Woolworths are as high as 45 cents per litre, awarded to those who spend the required amount in either of the ‘Big Two’s’ supermarkets. Whilst this may appear to offer a short-term consumer gain, Chairman Simms has commented that this practice may prove harmful in the long run, particularly for other fuel retailers as well as genuine competition in the marketplace.
In other words, Coles and Woolworths could effectively drive independent fuel retailers out of business and then charge whatever they like.
It is unclear when the second, shopper docket, inquiry will report.
Read more at the Northern Territory News.
Are we really surprised?
Australian grocery shoppers have realised for a long time now that they have little choice when it comes to food shopping. Sure, we can indulge ourselves with trips to a farmers’ market or the occasional high street fruit and veg store. But most of us, inevitably, seem to find ourselves at a Coles or Woolworths store every week.
‘Down, down, prices are down’ is the promise from one. And these ‘savings’ have, of course, been achieved by screwing the primary producers – the dairy farmers, cheese makers, orchardists and mushroom growers who do the early mornings and the hard yards to supply fresh food for all.
So when we receive our shopper docket and head straight to the nearest affiliated service station, do we really think that this ‘saving’ too will come without a sting in its tail?
Silly if we do!
Of course Coles and Woolworths will offer higher and higher discounts to steer us to the fuel outlet of their choice. The more we spend, the more we get.
But the cost of this saving is huge when counted in livelihoods, neighbourhoods and family businesses – not to mention the long-term health and competitive strength of our supermarket and fuel sectors.
What do you think? Are Coles and Woolworths doing consumers a favour by offering such large discounts in exchange for their patronage? Or have they formed a duopoly likely to drive independent fuel retailers out of business?
Use this great website to search for lowest priced fuel, by outlet, so you can pick and choose where you shop.