They have a wider array of options from cheaper fuel at petrol stations, loyalty programs of retailers, convenience store items to in-store cafes.
“The changing dynamic of Australia’s retail petrol market can be beneficial to consumers, as it gives them more choice about where they get their fuel,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said.
“New retailers entering the market, for example, can have a positive impact on competition as businesses fight for market share. This can help bring down prices, as we have recently seen in the Cairns petrol market. Where there are a limited number of retailers in a market, prices can be higher due to a lack of price competition.”
ACCC has released its second petrol industry report which showed the greater diversity of retailers compared to 15 years ago. Petrol giants BP and Caltex dominated retail petrol sales in 2002-03, accounting for 83 per cent of the market but since then their monitored retail petrol sales declined significantly to 38 per cent in 2016-17.
Meanwhile independent retail chains such as 7-Eleven, United, Puma Energy and On The Run have more than quadrupled their market share.
Coles Express and rival grocery Woolworths’ shares declined over the past four years. Their petrol volume grew strongly between 2002-03 and 2012-13 to 51 per cent, partly due to shopper docket discounts which has risen at times at 45 cents per litre.
The consumer watchdog investigated the shopper dockets which resulted in Coles and Woolworths having to limit discounts from December 2013 due to concerns on the long-term anti-competitive effect.
“For many consumers, price is the most important factor when determining where to buy petrol. More players in the market means more options of where to buy petrol. This is important as we found prices vary considerably between retailers,” Sims said. “For example, in our first industry report we found that in Sydney the difference between the highest priced and lowest priced retailer was 9.5 cents per litre in 2017. Price-sensitive consumers can therefore make significant savings over time by choosing to buy petrol at lower priced retailers.”
New petrol websites and apps have surfaced in the petrol industry from Woolworths, 7-Eleven, New South Wales FuelCheck, etc. These have helped consumers keep track on cheaper prices without needing to visit petrol stations.
The Queensland Government announced a plan to have a two-year trial starting in December that will require fuel retailers to collate and publish their latest prices online. ACCC said some consumers may prefer to purchase petrol from retailers they consider to be in convenient locations, have superior convenience store offerings or offer loyalty schemes, such as frequent flyer points.
ACCC said in many smaller regional markets have fewer choices that are usually found in larger markets. The market study in May 2017 showed the large independent retail chain United in Cairns had a positive effect on competition and prices.