The chairman of the ACCC Rod Sims has echoed common Australian sentiments, saying that petrol prices are just too high. Unfortunately even the ACCC doesn't have a clear course of action that can be taken to lower prices, though it does have some solid advice for consumers looking to avoid getting ripped off.
Speaking to Melbourne's 3AW on Monday Mr Sims said motorists were paying too much for petrol, after a weekend where prices reached as high as $1.90 in places. "In our view, margins are two to three cents a litre too high," he said. "That’s $400-$600 million – a lot of money for Australian motorists."
The good news is this price gouging isn't constant - consumers can still get a good deal if they pay attention to price fluctuations, as much of a pain as that might be.
"When prices are at bottom of the cycle, you’re probably getting petrol below cost and when they’re at the top of the cycle you’re getting ripped off big time. It just fluctuates in a way that irritates the hell out of motorists, but it’s not against the law the way that’s happening."
Because overpricing goods isn't actually against the law, there's not much the ACCC can do - though the government has said they will consider any options the consumer body wants to put forward to keep fuel pricing in check.
The other factor adding to increased fuel prices, according to Mr Sims, is the way petrol is taxed and the lack of insight consumers are granted on those taxes. While the 41 cent fuel excise is meant to go towards building new roads, Mr Sims says we have no way of knowing whether that tax is appropriate for the amount of money actually being spent. "It’s there to fund the roads that governments build. But the link is so poor, you have no idea whether this level of taxation is the right one or not."
For now, the ACCC recommends shopping around to get the best price - especially in cities like Sydney where fuel prices can differ by up to 9.5 cents at different retailers. It also recommends checking out price comparison apps like "the New South Wales FuelCheck website and app; the Northern Territory MyFuel NT website and app; the Western Australia FuelWatch website; the MotorMouth website and app; and apps operated by GasBuddy, the NRMA, 7-Eleven and Woolworths."