Victoria rules out mandatory fuel price reporting scheme, calls on councils to attract greater competition

The inquiry recommended regional councils encourage new fuel players to enter the market.

The inquiry recommended regional councils encourage new fuel players to enter the market.

A MANDATORY fuel price reporting scheme has been ruled out for Victoria, with the state to instead focus on encouraging more fuel discounters into regional areas and promoting the RACV’s fuel price app.

The parliament’s economic, education, jobs and skills committee released a report on Tuesday following its inquiry into fuel prices in regional Victoria.

It found that fuel prices in Bendigo were actually below Melbourne from 2013 to 2016, but increased significantly in 2017.

The average fuel price remained higher in Bendigo than in Ballarat, Geelong, Shepparton, Wodonga and Warrnambool, but was cheaper than Mildura and Warrnambool.

Related: APCO scathing of players behind regional Victorian fuel market

While mandatory reporting schemes are already operating in New South Wales, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, the committee found they had failed to reduce prices in regional areas.

The committee instead suggested that regional councils should actively encourage new fuel retailers to their area in order to boost competition.

A new United petrol station was recently proposed for land on the Midland Highway in Epsom, opposite Bunnings.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Matthew Schroder told the inquiry that councils needed to make it easier for fuel discounters to set up.

“In some cases we have heard – this is not specific to Victoria – that it is very hard to get prime sites for land for new service stations,” he said.

“So that will be one of the things: to not prevent competition.”

The committee’s chair Nazih Elasmar said there were limited measures the state government could take to improve fuel affordability in regional Victoria, but believed increased awareness of fuel price apps would be a good start.

“The committee supports the use of fuel price apps to improve the information available to regional Victorians when choosing when and where to purchase fuel,” he said.

“It also favours other measures to stimulate competition in regional fuel markets such as reviewing planning policies to encourage the entry of new independent retailers or fuel discounters.”

Smaller towns usually face greater price pressure than larger towns, the report found.

Mark Naish, of Kyneton, told the committee that the town’s two petrol stations almost always displayed the same price, which was considerably higher than Bendigo and Melbourne.

“It is not unusual for the price of LPG in Kyneton to be up to 15 cents per Litre higher than city prices, and up to 10 cents per Litre higher than Bendigo prices, or, for that matter, surrounding large towns,” he said.

“There also seems to be no competition between the two service stations even though they are sited opposite each other.

“There has been very little movement in fuel prices over the past five years or more. As a consequence of this, I simply refuse to fill my vehicles from either petrol/LPG stations in Kyneton, preferring to fill when opportunity presents itself at other service stations.”

The difference between prices in Melbourne and regional Victoria had decreased in the past two years. The average difference is 0.7 cents per litre.

The committee also recommended smaller communities look at community-owned petrol stations, like in Kaniva near the South Australian border.

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