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Why Brisbane pays so much more for petrol

Posted: 9 October 2017 7:29 am


ACCC investigation shows there's not enough competition in the Sunshine State.

Complaining about petrol prices is Australia's national sport, but Brisbane residents have more reason than most of us to feel hard done by.

A new study by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) shows that a lack of competition means Brisbane residents are paying much more for petrol than other capital city dwellers. In 2015-2016, they were paying 3.3 cents more per litre on average.

That might not sound like a big difference, but it adds up every time you fill your tank. And it means that the average profit for a petrol station was 55% higher in Brisbane in 2015-2016 than in other cities.

"The ACCC's report confirms Brisbane drivers' suspicions that they are paying too much for petrol, and that some local fuel retailers are enjoying high profit margins at their expense," ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in a statement announcing the study. "The high retail prices and margins for petrol in Brisbane have cost motorists there around $50 million per year more than their interstate counterparts since 2009–10. This is despite wholesale prices in Brisbane being similar to those in the other four largest cities".

The regulator has been conducting ongoing research into fuel prices around Australia. One consistent theme that emerges from those findings is that competition is strongest when there are a lot of independent fuel retailers in a city. Dominant brands, such as BP, Caltex, Coles and Woolworths typically charge higher prices.

In Brisbane, unfortunately, there are just four independent petrol retailers: 7-Eleven, Puma Energy, Freedom Fuels and United. As a result, there's less variation from the average price as you can see from the chart below. (Note that Coles' high price may in part reflect the fact many shoppers will use discount dockets, which isn't fully reflected in the ACCC analysis.)


So what can the average driver do? Shopping around still remains the best defence, especially since there have been notable price drops in recent months. "In Brisbane, there is usually a wide range of prices at retail petrol sites across the city," Sims noted. "By timing their purchases of petrol, and choosing to buy from the lowest priced retailer, motorists filling up a vehicle with a 60 litre tank could save themselves in the region of $10-$15 per tank of petrol."

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears regularly on finder.com.au.

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Picture: Scott Kenneth Brodie/Shutterstock

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