Drivers in south east NSW are paying the highest petrol prices in the state, according to the National Roads and Motorists’ Association.
The NRMA released a new online petrol ranking system in May that shows the cheapest and most expensive bowsers across 52 locations in NSW.
The ‘Bowser Buster’ has revealed that motorists in Bega, Moruya and Cooma are paying through the nose for fuel.
The average price of unleaded petrol in Bega for the week ending July 1 was 146.8 cents per litre, almost 12 cents dearer than the state average and the 14th most expensive in NSW.
Eden Caltex franchisee Steve Bartlett has been in the industry for over 20 years. He says there are a number of reasons why petrol prices are higher in regional areas.
“First of all there’s the cost of delivery.
“Secondly, the volume that’s available to a site in the city is very different to the volume that’s available to a site in the country and that’s a function of population.
“But the cost structure – if you look at wages, the hourly rate for a service station operator in the city is the same as in the country, the electricity bill’s the same – so because the volume available is less you need to make more out of a site in the country before you can make a profit.
“Some big sites in the city sell two million litres a month and I know a lot of sites in the country that don’t even do two million litres in a year.”
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which monitors the retail prices of fuel in all Australian capital cities and 180 regional towns, agrees that higher transport and storage costs and lower levels of competition contribute to higher petrol prices in country areas.
The ACCC also says that because regional retailers sell lower volumes of fuel than those in the city they replenish their fuel stocks less which means they are slower to respond to changes in international and wholesale prices.
Mr Bartlett said that service stations in regional towns such as Bega, Merimbula and Eden charge different petrol prices because they are governed by different circumstances.
“Some sites are controlled by their supplier and are told what price to set.
“Other sites can make their own decision based on what they’ve paid for the product,” he said.
Eden Caltex manager, Rhonda McCrory said their petrol price was set by the supplier.
“Caltex tell me our price, which will be different to other sites prices.
“I only get told my price,” she said.
The NRMA has also conducted a survey of 800 people which shows 54 per cent of motorists were caught out by misleading fuel price boards last year.
The NSW Government is proposing to make it mandatory for service stations to advertise all fuels on their price boards.
The NRMA’s southern regional director Alan Evans said he supported the proposed legislation.
“The NRMA believes these changes will encourage service stations to fight harder for customers driving past as it will mean the prices of all their fuels will be on display for all to see,” he said.
“This is exactly what the petrol industry needs, particularly throughout southern NSW where competition is sometimes lacking.”
Rhonda McCrory said there were already rules governing what is displayed on the price board and that the new proposal was probably aimed at petrol stations owned by big retail chains which have discount rewards systems.
“If we put our price up it has to go on the price board before you can change it on the pump.
“I think with this proposal they’re talking about the supermarket shopper docket sites because they advertise on their signs that it’s so much a litre but actually when you get into the store to pay there’s conditions applying to that.
“On our site that doesn’t apply – what’s on the board is what it is.”