The competition watchdog has discontinued proceedings against several petrol retailers including Woolworths and 7-Eleven, after previously alleging the use of price comparison site Informed Solutions decreased competition between service stations.
The announcement comes after Coles Express agreed to stop using Informed Solutions after being pursued by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. However, the ACCC was still pursuing BP Australia, Caltex Australia, Woolworths and 7-Eleven until shortly before Christmas over the use of the price comparison site.
The resolution of the court proceedings means Informed Solutions must make its information available to consumers at the same time as the petrol retailers that subscribe to its service.
The petrol retailers will also not have to pay the competition watchdog’s costs. ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in a statement the resolution of the court proceedings is good news for competition in the sector.
“The ACCC believes that greater transparency of petrol prices and the behaviour of petrol retailers across Australia will reduce the potential for any adverse effect of the Informed Sources service on competition,” Sims said.
“The resolution of this matter will enable consumers to access petrol prices [from Informed Sources] in their local area or in areas along their journey. These prices will be updated every 15 or 30 minutes.”
“Another key outcome is the availability of the retail price information to third party service providers. This will promote innovation in the provision of petrol price information, to the benefit of consumers.”
Woolworths said in a statement it is pleased with the outcome of the proceedings. “Woolworths has always considered the Informed Sources service to be pro-competitive, helping Woolworths to efficiently compete in petrol markets and to ensure motorists get great prices,” the company said.
“We are happy that our customers will be able to continue to compare our and our competitors’ prices on the Woolworths fuel app, so they can be sure they are getting a great price for fuel at our sites.”
Caltex Australia also welcomed the decision, saying Informed Sources allows it to remain price competitive.
“This information is already publically available on petrol price boards, and the service simply makes it more cost-effective for fuel retailers to collect this data,” the company said in a statement.
Rohan Harris, principal at law firm Russell Kennedy, told SmartCompany the discontinuance of formal proceedings is “quite a normal outcome” when the competition watchdog reaches an agreement with the companies it is taking to court.
“It also means that all concerned avoid the cost, delay and uncertainty that is often associated with formal court proceedings,” Harris says.