Treasurer Scott Frydenberg has warned business owners the government will take action if the competition watchdog finds customers are being ripped off by high petrol prices.
A recent spike in petrol prices has sparked anger among consumers, thousands of whom have said they will boycott service stations across the country later this month in protest.
Reports emerged over the weekend prices for premium fuel passed $1.90 a litre, while the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) clocked prices at about $1.45 per litre in major cities during August.
Speaking to 3AW on Monday morning, ACCC chair Rod Sims said while the overseas cost of crude, which recently hit $80 a barrel, was driving the increase, local retail margins are “too high”.
“In our view, margins are two-three cents a litre too high, that’s $400-600 million … a lot of money for Australians,” Sims said.
Increasing scrutiny over retail bowser prices in recent months has prompted concern from the Australasian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association (ACAPMA), the body representing petrol retailers.
Mark McKenzie, chief executive of ACAPMA, told SmartCompany last week the idea retailers were at fault for the higher prices was “bollocks”.
“Our businesses have had dramatic increases in costs,” he said.
It comes as more than 50,000 consumers last week signalled their intention to boycott service stations across the country, joining a Facebook protest that’s taking aim at retailers.
Treasurer Scott Frydenberg has also weighed in, saying in an interview with the Nine Network the government would step in if the ACCC found retailers are ripping off motorists.
“If companies here are ripping off consumers then we will take action,” he said, according to AAP.
McKenzie has said there are more than 2,000 small businesses running fuel and convenience sites across the country which have been “wrongly accused” of ripping customers off.
However, the ACCC believes there’s room for prices to come down, finding in an August report that gross retail margins in Australia’s five largest cities were over 50% above the 16-year average.