I have listened to the concerns of Australian consumers and business regarding the mysteries of fuel pricing. Many of these concerns have been about margins, disparity in regional pricing and supply concerns.
This week we have seen record low fuel prices across Australia. This is great news for consumers and many retailers are passing on the benefits of low international oil prices to their customers.
However it seems curious to me that many Australians in rural areas are not yet reaping the benefits of these low prices.
This seems to support my belief that competitive pressures alone are not sufficient to ensure efficient pricing and the protection of consumers in all retail fuel markets.
In December I issued a new direction under section 95ZE of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to monitor the prices, costs and profits relating to the supply of products in the petroleum industry in Australia for the next three years.
Monitoring reports will now be produced quarterly to be more informative, responsive and able to identify areas of market concern or heightened interest for the community.
In addition, the new direction also empowers the Commission to undertake a ‘deep dive’ into specific markets or aspects of the fuel industry requiring closer and more specific examination. These reviews will target perceived irregularities in the fuel market or market dysfunction with potential detriment to motorists.
Under the new approach, the ACCC will conduct at least four investigations a year into specific geographic markets, specific products or other issues of concern. The particular focuses of these investigations will be announced in due course.
This action is in response to legitimate community concern and the goal of ensuring efficient prices through healthy markets that function to the benefit of motorists.
I would encourage consumers concerned about the lack of flow through of lower prices to raise their concerns with the ACCC to assist in exercising their new powers.