ACCC Secures Consumer Victory with Real-time Petrol Prices
Only recently, Coles confessed that it was abandoning its price sharing platform that is helping petrol retailers charge customers inflated fuel prices. Now, thanks to the Australian Competition Consumer Commission (ACCC), we Australians will have access to the same petrol price information as the retailers, making cheaper petrol prices easier to find.
This information service is what BP, Caltex, Woolworths and 7-Eleven use with cartel type affects and thankfully, due to the deal struck by our competition watchdog, we will now have access to the same data as the above companies. The information will also be provided in real-time for the first time in our history, making the hunt for the cheapest petrol prices easier than ever before.
Up until now, this petrol pricing information was only available to the above mentioned companies, allowing them to monitor the fluctuations in price every 15-30 minutes to their advantage. An exclusive petrol price information service known as ‘Informed Sources’ is the main source of said information, helping companies adjusts their prices to charge us more than they should. The public release of this data is a jump forward in the battle for price equality, especially after the ACCC released a report displaying how petrol stations were making the biggest profit margins since price monitoring began in 2002.
The latest agreement is not only a relief for many logistical businesses around the country, but also for the humble consumer. Informed Services have agreed to make its information available free of charge to customers and third parties on commercial terms from mid-2016, meaning we will all be working off the same page. In my eyes, it´s about time, especially as this sort of activity is a complete violation of the competition and consumer laws in Australia.
Why have the ACCC done this? The reason is simply because the previous platform allowed retailers to communicate with each other about their prices. This drastically reduced competition and allowed the petrol stations to inflate their prices and corner customers into paying more money when they shouldn’t have needed to.
Rod Sims, ACCC´s chairman said this is a great win for the Australian public, empowering them to choose when and where they want to buy their fuel. A more informed customer means they can identify cheaper prices and bargains in their local areas. Companies such as BP, Caltex, Woolworths and 7-Eleven have agreed that they will not enter into any price exchange service allowing them to share information with each other, unless that information is shared with the consumer as well.
This agreement was also replicated by Informed Services, who stated that they will also adhere to providing information about fuel pricing within an exchange as long as that information is shared and made free to consumers. Informed Sources stated that these conditions would be followed for the five years commencing post mid-2016.
I guess we all owe it to the ACCC and its dispute with Coles Express who recently agreed to stop using Informed Sources service after its contract expires next year. Although this is a great victory, it´s still annoying to see that Coles Express has got away with admitting its use of the service without any penalty or fine. The result, however, could mean that retailers who fluctuate their prices even on a daily basis, due to the opening hours of Costco for example, will no longer have the ability to easily catch us out.
We now need to wait and see what the other retailers will do in the run up to the trial in February 2016. Do you believe they should all be punished for violating competition laws?