The price of fuel has fallen consistently at Caltex Wodonga, on Melbourne Road. Pictures: JOHN RUSSELLBORDER drivers seeking an end to the disparity between rural and city petrol prices yesterday welcomed an inquiry by the prices watchdog.
Albury, Wodonga, Wangaratta, Benalla and Wagga are among 180 regional centres already being monitored by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
The commission will next month publish its first quarterly report on petrol price movements.
It will focus on three regional markets to find what drives petrol prices.
An analysis of bowser prices in regional areas in July showed the average retail price of petrol was 5.7cents a litre higher than in the five largest cities.
This gap had blown out to 17.6cents by December.
Wodonga driver Paul Rowe said that although fuel prices had fallen, he wanted an inquiry.
“Apart from a bit of freight, we should be paying what they pay in Melbourne,” Mr Rowe said.
“Carting freight from Melbourne to the Border is a minimal cost. That’s not the problem. There lies a problem somewhere in between.
“There seems to be a bit of price gouging going on and I think they should keep a close watch on prices because we are being ripped off in the country big time.”
Wodonga’s new APCO station on Moorefield Park Drive has helped lower the city’s price.
The price gap has not gone unnoticed by regular traveller Matthew Fagence.
“An investigation is a good idea. Regional people shouldn’t get hit more than the people in the city,” he said.
“I do a lot of travelling to Melbourne and, usually, it is cheaper there than it is here.”
The commission will be able to call on its compulsory information-gathering powers, activated under ministerial direction, in an effort to explain the pricing anomalies.
The powers give the commission the right to sensitive pricing information from companies, along every level of the fuel chain, in specifically targeted markets.
The three regional areas to be studied in this way will remain secret until after the compulsory notices have been issued to avoid market players altering behaviour before the probe begins.
The first market to be targeted will be announced in March.
The studies will look at the cost of fuel in the nearest port, transport and storage costs, as well as wholesale, distribution, and retail costs to fully explain prices and where money is being made in the petrol price value chain.
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