FINAL REPORT ON ARMIDALE FUEL PRICING RELEASED BY ACCC

Monday, 21 November 2016

Long wait for action – and we’re still waiting!

NORTHERN Tablelands MP Adam Marshall remains perplexed about the role of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on the back of the release today of the commission’s 72-page ‘Report on the Armidale petrol market’.

The MP said if there was ever a prize for stating the obvious, then this overblown report would be on the winner’s podium.

The report is the result of an investigation into the Armidale retail fuel sector which was first announced in August 2015 and was expected to deliver fairer pricing practices to consumers.

“I received the report this morning and am still scratching my head 72 pages later – this report contains no new information and certainly delivers no outcome or action,” Mr Marshall said.

“To say that I am disappointed with this outcome after such a long wait doesn’t even begin to describe my impressions – to summarise, the report finds that Armidale consumers are getting screwed, but nothing is going to be done about it.

“The first two paragraphs from the ACCC’s media release today say it all;

‘A lack of competition has led to consistently high prices in the Armidale petrol market, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s latest regional petrol report.

‘Armidale motorists have been paying on average around 8 cents per litre more than motorists in the five largest cities. Prices in Armidale have also been consistently higher than in smaller surrounding towns such as Glen Innes and Inverell,’ ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.’

“If the ACCC does not have the powers to curtail cartel pricing practices, then the Commissioner should explain why and what new powers they might need to take action.

“To simply make these conclusions without any steps to stop price gouging in this market, gives tacit approval to these practices continuing.”

The report details that the introduction of an independent retailer in June 2016, led to a decrease from 9.5 cents per litre (cpl) higher than other areas to 3.4 cpl more.

The major petrol retailers in Armidale – Caltex, Coles Express and Woolworths – dominate the market and claim an 86 per cent market share in Armidale.

The ‘lack of competition in Armidale’ was also cited as a direct cause of higher prices – a fact the MP was quick to dismiss.

“If the lack of competition in Armidale – there are nine fuel retail sites – is a reason, I would point out that Invergowrie, Black Mountain and Delungra with just one outlet each, are almost always cheaper than Armidale,” Mr Marshall said.

“The report does assert that since 2012, motorists purchasing fuel in Armidale have been charged on average 8 cpl more than most other locations in Australia.

“That equates to around $5.40 per average tank of ULP that Armidale consumers are overpaying and that goes straight to the super profits of the major corporations.

“The response from the ACCC is simply not up to mark and I will be taking this back to them to see how basic consumer protections can be maintained in the bush.

“Perhaps it is time for some further forensic questioning of the ACCC to get to the bottom of this matter.

“In the meantime, I urge all Armidale motorists to use the NSW FuelCheck website and buy fuel from the cheapest retailer – which is constantly the independent retailer in Beardy Street with unleaded 9 cents a litre cheaper than anywhere else today!”

The full ACCC ‘Report on the Armidale petrol market’ can be viewed online at www.accc.gov.au/media-release/armidale-petrol-market-has-not-had-sufficient-competition

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