Motorists around the nation are cheering on the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission as it steps into the ring against the nation’s largest petrol retailers. The ACCC is alleging a fuel market data company, Informed Sources, is at the centre of an information-sharing conspiracy used by BP, Caltex, Woolworths, Eureka (Coles Express) and 7-Eleven. The use of this fuel data sharing company, it is alleged, allows these businesses to communicate with one another and thereby ‘substantially lessens competition’.

The ACCC will have to prove that Informed Sources has been used to artificially increase petrol prices in a coordinated way; and therefore decrease pricing rivalry.

ACCC Chairman Rod Sims. Photo: www.smh.com.au

ACCC Chairman Rod Sims. Photo: www.smh.com.au

ACCC chairman Rod Sims told reporters, “Given the importance of price competition in petrol retailing, the ACCC is concerned that consumers may be paying more for petrol as a result.

“The ACCC alleges that fuel retailers can use, and have used, the Informed Sources service as a near real-time communication device in relation to petrol pricing.

“In particular, it is alleged that retailers can propose a price increase to their competitors and monitor the response to it. 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.”

Predictably, those under investigation are outraged. Caltex issued a statement saying it, “strongly rejects the allegation that the Informed Sources service is in any way illegal. Caltex will defend the ACCC action.”

Likewise Woolworths is gearing up for what will surely be a protracted and vicious legal battle.

But motorists and motoring bodies around the nation are cheering on the ACCC.

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