Record petrol margins costing drivers $750m a year

The ACCC is rallying drivers to shop around so they're not slogged at the petrol bowser.

  • Petrol station margins reach all-time high
  • Drivers can save 25c a litre buying at the right time

Motorists should be rallying against petrol stations' record margins as they're costing Australians approximately $750 million more each year, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) warns.

Petrol prices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth shot up significantly in the last quarter of 2017, the competition watchdog reports. The average price reached 135.1 cents a litre – a surge of 12.6 cents within the quarter.

The gross retail margins are at their fattest level since the watchdog began recording them in 2002. This represents an additional cost to motorists of more than $750 million a year, assuming similar margins for sales of all petrol types, the ACCC says.

"Consumers can save significantly by timing their purchases during the price cycle, which encourages retailers to be more competitive," says Rod Sims, chair of the ACCC.

"Retail prices in the larger capital cities can vary by around 25 cents per litre to 30 cents per litre near the time that price cycles are increasing," he adds.

Sims also recommends motorists "fight back against these high prices" by shopping around using fuel-price comparison websites and apps.

Not all of the price surge is owed to fatter margins, the ACCC acknowledges, but the extra padding accounts for about a third.

The remaining two-thirds of the price increase relates to the rising cost of crude oil and refined petrol, and a lower exchange rate against the US dollar.

"The ACCC accepts that some of the increase in gross retail margins has been due to increased costs; the information we have, however, indicates that this contribution does not explain the bulk of the increase," says Sims.

"Petrol retailers' margins are the highest they have ever been and motorists are paying for it."