The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has taken aim at the major fuel retailers, this time over alleged ‘price sharing’.
It’s alleged the information supplied to Informed Sources (and updated every 15 minutes) about fuel prices is being used by rival retailers in a manner similar to ‘price fixing’, with initial investigations focusing on the Melbourne market.
ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said fuel retailers could effectively ‘suggest’ a price-rise to rivals through the service.
"It is alleged that retailers can propose a price increase to their competitors and monitor the response to it," Mr Sims said, speaking with the ABC.
"If, for example, the response is not sufficient, they can quickly withdraw the proposal and may punish competitors that have not accepted the proposed increased price.”
A successful action from the ACCC over prices in Melbourne could have implications in other capital cities and major regional towns, as the Informed Sources program operates in these centres in much the same way.
Mr Sims said the current arrangement was likely to have a detrimental effect on prices and competition, and that competition among fuel retailers was “important”.
Caltex and Woolworths have both announced they will defend their actions, with Woolworths saying it uses the data from Informed Sources to be more price-competitive.
The grocery giant also says consumers can access the same data to find the cheapest fuel, but information available to the general public is only updated twice daily.
The first hearing is scheduled for the Federal Court on September 26 in Melbourne.