MEMBER for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall has today come out swinging at Armidale’s fuel retailers, accusing them of price gouging and daylight robbery, following a spate of complaints from local motorists forced to pay ridiculously high fuel prices at the bowser.
Mr Marshall, who’s been vocal on fuel prices before, said he had been inundated over the Christmas period with letters, emails and contact on social media from frustrated Armidale motorists already doing it tough. The MP is demanding that immediate action be taken against the extortionist prices currently being charged for fuel.
“Armidale motorists have had a gutful,” Mr Marshall said. “They are sick and tired of being ripped off at the bowser and treated like fools.
“The charade’s over and everyone can see that fuel prices in Armidale, for unleaded and diesel, are by far the highest in the New England and North West and over the last 12 months, have consistently been in the top five highest price locations anywhere in NSW.”
Mr Marshall said unleaded fuel in Armidale was currently 9¢ a litre more expensive than at Inverell, 7¢ a litre more expensive than at Moree, Warialda and Guyra, 6¢ a litre more expensive than at Delungra and 4.5¢ a litre more expensive than at Tamworth and 14¢ a litre more expensive than at Dubbo. He said the difference in the diesel price ranged from 11 to 19¢ more expensive than any other location in the region.
“It is ridiculous that fuel pricing in Armidale over the past 52 weeks has consistently been more expensive by more than 8¢ a litre for unleaded petrol and more than 13¢ a litre for diesel,” Mr Marshall said.
“Even the smaller nearby retailers, such as the Invergowrie General Store and the Black Mountain Roadhouse seel fuel at much cheaper prices.
“There is no rational explanation for this farcical situation and why it is allowed to continue, at the expense of local motorists.
These retailers need to be named and shamed and exposed for what they are – rip off merchants and price gougers!”
In October 2014 Mr Marshall took to the floor of State Parliament to lambast Armidale retailers for what he described and anti-competitive practices and some of the highest fuel prices in the State.
This triggered the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to conduct an investigation and in August last year Armidale was the third regional community added to the anti-competition agency’s fuel price watch list.
Mr Marshall said that despite this attention from the ACCC local motorists were still being robbed at the bowser.
“The ACCC acknowledged that Armidale consistently had higher fuel prices than most other centres in NSW but reported that it couldn’t find evidence of ‘cartel’ behaviour among the retailers – that’s not to say its isn’t happening here – they simply couldn’t find any evidence of it,” Mr Marshall said.
“Obviously in regional areas prices will be a bit more expensive, but of the more than 50 centres monitored by the NRMA for fuel pricing in regional NSW, Armidale is the fourth highest in the State, beaten only by Broken Hill, Tumut and Gundagai.”
“The deplorable situation that exists in Armidale with regard to fuel prices must cease and I call on the ACCC to immediately take action to bring to an end what I, and many residents of Armidale and the Northern Tablelands, believe is price gouging and price collusion practices by fuel retailers in the city of Armidale.
“The guidelines of the ACCC state that statistically regional locations pay more for fuel, and we accept that.
“It also states there are many reasons including: the limited number of retail sites operating in a particular regional market, that is, lack of competition; lower volumes of fuel sold, hence higher average costs; and distance-location factors.
“However, when one compares the city of Armidale with a population of about 25,000 people to other centres that are within an hour or two from Sydney, have smaller populations, less competition and fewer outlets – it’s unconscionable that people in Armidale are forced to pay so much more for fuel.
“Anyone could be forgiven for believing there is a concerted effort by fuel retailers in Armidale to keep prices artificially high.
“When you analyse the figures, and in the absence of any rational explanation, I can understand why many motorists in Armidale are forming that view.”