Tuesday, 7 April 2020

FUEL retailers across the region have been likened to ‘cartels’ and ‘petrol barons’ as Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall took aim today at fuel prices across in town across the electorate.

With demand for fuel worldwide dropping sharply due to the COVID-19 pandemic, terminal gate prices in Australia are at their lowest in years – 84.4 cents/litre at Sydney and 83.4c/l in Brisbane – but motorists in the region have not seen these easing prices passed on at the bowser, according to Mr Marshall.

Average across the region today for unleaded 91 fuel was 130.3c/l – a full 11 cents above the NSW average today and eight cents above the regional NSW average.

Mr Marshall was infuriated by the price difference, savaging retailers setting prices locally, accusing them of colluding with one another to keep prices high.

“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out that there is cartel-like behaviour occurring in our region at the moment,” he said.

“These people are like the mob; exploiting people and preying on the vulnerable, on people who can’t shop around, particularly the elderly.

“There clearly has to be some sort of collusion because it’s not as if one fuel retailer around the region in every town is very high, with just a couple of exceptions, they’re all in on it, blindly committing daylight robbery, gouging people at the fuel pump.

“While prices across the country are dropping rapidly, we’re seeing very little or no change here.

“Let’s call it for what it is, an absolute rort.”

Glen Innes is one of the worst-hit communities, with the cheapest unleaded fuel today selling for 131.9c/l. The average price at the bowser, across all the town’s fuel stations was 137.2 cents – the highest in the region and one of the highest anywhere in the State today.

Uralla was not much better, with the cheapest unleaded 134.9c/l and an average of 136.2 at the pump.

Inverell (129.9c/l average) and Moree (129.8) were slightly better, but still well above the average pump prices for regional NSW, which was 122.9c/l today.

“It is ridiculous that fuel pricing in our region over the past few weeks has consistently been more expensive by more than eight cents a litre for unleaded petrol and more than 13 cents a litre for diesel the almost everywhere else in the State,” he said.

This is the MP’s latest attack in an ongoing battle against fuel retailers, speaking about the “price gouging” in Parliament in 2014, and reviving the issue two years ago.

“The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) exists to protect consumers against this sort of racketeering behaviour, but in reality they’re simply a toothless tiger,” Mr Marshall said.

“If the ACCC doesn’t have the power to take action in a situation like this, then the law needs to be changed to give the ACCC the ability to take these guys to task,” he said.

“I would encourage people to write, to email, and to make the complaints online through the ACCC.

“They should also join me in writing to their local Federal MP and the Prime Minister, demanding action be brought by the ACCC against these rogue retailers who are profiteering off the back of hard-working locals.

“The only way we’re going to get some action take is if the relevant authority, which in this case is the ACCC, is actually forced to take these fuel retailers to task.”

Mr Marshall said the cheapest fuel in the whole region was at the Beardy Street Servo in Armidale and the Invergowrie General Store, both selling unleaded petrol today for 105c/l, more than 30 cents a litre cheaper than the average price in Glen Innes.

“Aside from these and a couple of other independent retailers across the region, prices a sky high,” he said.

“If this doesn’t convince you that something’s wrong with the system, then nothing will.

“It’s easy to see why motorists have had a gutful.”

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