Fuel price data from websites and apps empowers price-sensitive consumers, said ACCC Chairman Rod Sims speaking at the Asia Pacific Fuel Industry Forum this week. The industry can then attract these consumers through discounts to increase their sales.
Since 2016 fuel price data is available to motorists from an increasing number of websites and apps. These include the NSW FuelCheck scheme, the GasBuddy, NRMA and 7-Eleven apps. This information assists consumers find the best time to buy at sites with the lowest prices.
“Many consumers appear convinced that petrol prices are a rip off,” Mr Sims said. “The wild fluctuations in prices that occur in the larger cities because of the petrol price cycles only reinforces this view. Consumers can see that international petrol prices have not risen but fuel prices have. These perceptions have been around for many years and remain today.
“Therefore, the current focus of the ACCC is to highlight to consumers the ability of technology to help them find where the cheapest petrol prices are, to encourage them to buy where petrol is cheapest, and to reward retailers which have the lowest prices.”
Mr Sims said the shift from the long-standing arrangement whereby only the major retailers had access to comprehensive information about petrol prices, to consumers now being empowered to make purchasing decisions through a range of fuel price apps and websites, will help drive more competitive markets in petrol retailing.
In August 2014, the ACCC took action against Informed Sources, a subscriber service which allowed major petrol retailers to exchange fuel price data across all their sites on a near real-time basis. In response, this data became available to everyone – including consumers – through the MotorMouth website and app in May 2016, making it easier for consumers to chase lower petrol prices.
Mr Sims said the information also encourages price discounters by bringing their lower prices to the attention of consumers.
“Since we reached the undertaking with Informed Sources and the major retailers in December 2015, fuel price apps and websites have become a fast-growing segment of the fuel market,” he said.
“We think this information is especially important today when there appears to be increasing confusion about fuel prices due to the changing nature of the price cycle over recent years.”