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Coles caught out on petrol prices

SmartCompany /

Business owners trying to save a few extra dollars by using shopper dockets to buy discounted petrol may need to think again – those hoped-for savings may be more illusory than real.

The Coles Express service station chain was yesterday nailed by the nation’s competition watchdog for selling the most expensive petrol in most of Australia’s capital cities.

The Coles branded sites were found to be selling the highest priced petrol in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide in a snapshot of petrol prices around the country taken at 9am yesterday by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Even shoppers who bought discount petrol from Coles Express stations using shopper dockets were paying through the nose, according to ACCC petrol price commissioner Pat Walker.

“It is important that consumers do not automatically rely on their petrol discount voucher to necessarily deliver the lowest price,” Walker says. “In these cases, loyal shoppers redeeming their voucher at the highest priced sites are paying much more than they need to.”

Soaring fuel prices are causing increasingly large headaches for business owners. According to a recent Dun & Bradstreet survey, 20% of business managers rate the cost of fuel as the most important influence on the business in the quarter ahead, while 76% say high fuel prices are having a negative impact on their business.

Small and medium sized businesses in the heavily fuel reliant transport and logistics sector are being particularly hard hit. Victorian company Boyles Livestock Transport recently ranked ninth on the SmartCompany/Dun & Bradstreet Industry Growth List for the sector, but director Anthony Boyle said recently that high fuel prices are putting a big squeeze on margins.

Fuel costs are a huge concern. Fuel has gone up 20 cents in the last six weeks – five years ago fuel was 25% of turnover, now its 40%. Redoing your costings to make that work is pretty tough,” Boyle said.

And those hoping the fuel price may be short-lived should think again. The price of a barrel of crude oil in New York market hit a record of $US123.80 overnight, and that could be just the beginning – investment bank Goldman Sachs yesterday predicted oil prices could top $US200 a barrel within the next two years.

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