Service station owners doubt FuelWatch red tape claims

Claims that FuelWatch red tape could cost independent service stations owners $4000 a year have been questioned by the industry, with one Perth station boss saying he prefers the system.


A document prepared by Kevin Rudd’s Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet leaked to Channel Nine yesterday makes the claim that “the proposed scheme will result in ongoing increased operating costs of around $4000 per annum to affected small businesses”.


Another leaked submission, this time prepared by the Commonwealth Department of Resources and Energy, estimates an annual red-tape cost to business of close to $20 million, with the heaviest impact to fall on independent retailers.


But those claims don’t stack up with the experience of at least one independent service station that has been operating under the FuelWatch scheme in Western Australia since its introduction in 2001.


Kyle Lori, manager of his family’s Lori Service Station in the Perth suburb of Kelmscott, says the introduction of FuelWatch made running the business easier.


“It only takes a couple of minutes to ring the price through, so it’s not a lengthy process and once you’ve set the price you’ve got bit of peace of mind,” Lori says. “Instead of rushing checking what the other stations in the area are doing and changing the prices to keep up, you just set it and get on with something else, so it takes a bit of the stress out of it.”


As for the claims that complying with FuelWatch rules could cost independent service station owners thousands each year, Lori says that has not been his experience.


“I don’t think it costs us that. I save the time I would’ve used before to hop in the car and check prices down the road compared to a couple of minutes on the phone in the morning, so I don’t think it would cost us any less without FuelWatch,” he says.


The leaked public service cost claims raise more questions than they answer, according to Ron Bowden, chief executive of the Service Station Association.


Like Lori, Bowden says he understands the system simply involves informing the authority of a price, and there are few costs associated with it.


But the Government cost claims have Bowden worried. “Running the FuelWatch scheme will cost money and we had previously assumed the Government would pay for that, but these costs being bandied around suggest that might be passed on to the industry. That would obviously increase service station costs, and that would have to be passed on to motorists.”


Bowden says more information on how the scheme will work, what costs will be involved and who will bear them is needed.


“I’ve got no idea if those claims are accurate or how they have been arrived at, and that is the problem with this whole debate – there are all these claims floating around from all sorts of people with no evidence you can sit down and look at,” Bowden says.


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