News - General News Fuels
ACCC forces petrol prices into the open
Pump pressure: Fuel retailers have been forced to be more open with price adjustments, in an agreement that could push down the cost of filling up.
Data provider settlement prevents secret pricing exchanges among petrol retailers
24 December 2015
PREVIOUSLY restricted petrol pricing information held by the big six petrol
retailers will now be made public under a settlement reached with the
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in the Federal Court.
The settlement involved BP, Woolworths, Caltex, 7-Eleven and a price-collating
and distribution company named Informed Sources Pty Ltd.
Under the agreement, third parties will be able to gain access to the pricing
data that retailers use “on reasonable commercial terms,” but will also be made
available free to motorists.
The Australian Automobile Association, the peak body for state motoring clubs,
welcomed the decision today, saying consumers will directly benefit.
“This looks to be an excellent outcome for road users who should finally now
find themselves on a level playing field with the retailers when trying to
choose when and where to fill up,” said AAA chief executive Michael Bradley.
“As a leading advocate for Australia’s motoring clubs and their 7.5 million
members, the AAA strongly supports activities that ensure consumers are
protected against uncompetitive behavior within the fuel industry.”
The settlement ended a case brought by the ACCC against the four companies and
Informed Sources, which received pricing data from each of the fuel retailers
and made it available to all petrol retailers.
The Informed Sources service covers most of Australia and allows subscribers –
presently only the petrol retailers – to know exactly which prices have moved
and by how much.
The ACCC alleged that, while not the same as collusion, where parties agree to
raise prices in future, the access to pricing every 15 minutes allowed the
retailers to signal their intentions to each other, ACCC chairman Rod Sims said
at the time the case was launched in 2014.
“It is alleged that retailers can propose a price increase to their competitors
and monitor the response to it,” he said.
“If, for example, the response is not sufficient, they can quickly withdraw the
proposal and may punish competitors that have not accepted the proposed
The case was launched under Section 45 of the Competition and Consumer Act,
which prohibits contracts and arrangements that have the effect or likely
effect of reducing competition.
Under the settlement reached today, Informed Sources and the four retailers in
the case have effectively agreed not to deal in secret information, and will
not enter any price information exchange scheme unless the information is
available to the public.
Similarly, Informed Sources has agreed it will not supply the information
exchange service unless the pricing data it provides to the retailers is also
provided to consumers for free.
The data must also be available to third parties on reasonable commercial terms
if they want to provide a petrol pricing service for instance, through a
smartphone application or direct to a motorist’s dashboard.
Coles Express was initially included in the Federal Court case but earlier this
week accepted a court-enforceable undertaking to terminate its contract with
Informed Sources. It also agreed it would not engage in a price information
exchange scheme for five years.
The other major petrol retailer, Mobil, accepted a similar deal in August 2014.