Retailers cash in as fuel prices jump by up to 20 cents

FUEL prices across south-east Queensland have leapt upwards by almost 20 cents a litre however the RACQ says the cause is the petrol price-cycle not dodgy behaviour on the part of retailers.

The price of petrol in most south-east Queensland markets had been sitting between 105-110 cents a litre for much of August and September, however, those prices are now gone with some stations charging as much as 127.

And the increase has come without a hike in the amount retailers pay for fuel. The terminal gate price shows the amount of money retailers pay to purchase their petrol.

Data, from the Australian Institute of Petroleum, shows that in the past six days there has been no major increase in the cost of petrol for retailers.

It also shows the price retailers are paying for fuel in Brisbane is the same as the price being paid in Sydney - 108.7 cents a litre.

However in Sydney consumers are paying about 105-106 cents a litre.

Terminal Gate Prices source AIP
Terminal Gate Prices source AIP

"We're in a price cycle and that means there is quite a big difference between the top and the bottom of the cycle," RACQ head of communications Renee Smith said.

"What happens is that when we're at the bottom of the cycle prices are quite close to the terminal gate price - even sometimes slightly below it.

"But when we're at the top of the cycle as we are now the margins for retailers are much fatter.

"There are pros and cons to the price cycle - consumers have the opportunity to save money by purchasing fuel when we're at the bottom and that's what the RACQ recommends we do."

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has powers to investigate collusion between fuel retailers and geographically discriminatory pricing, however, Ms Smith said she didn't believe either of these were at play.

"Why would we ask the ACCC to investigate? If prices were staying consistently high as they are in Cairns we would do that - as we have done - but we wouldn't ask them to investigate the fuel price cycle in Brisbane."

The RACQ's website presently says a "fair" fuel price on the Sunshine Coast is 124 cents a litre, 123.2 cents litre in Ipswich and 118.3 cents a litre in Toowoomba.

In Moreton Bay in Brisbane's north a fair price is 123.5 cents. 

In Maryborough a fair price is lower - coming in at 117.2 cents a litre.

In 2010 a Federal Inquiry into fuel prices heard research from then UNSW associate professor Frank Zumbo, which used prices posted on the website found: "data from the website revealed 'no necessary link' between lower retail petrol prices and a service station being closer to a terminal or refinery, and no necessary link between lower retail prices and 'lower cost' suburbs having lower occupation costs."

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