POLITICIANS have spoken out against Tamworth’s high petrol prices, as motorist frustration with the costly trend continues to mount.
New England MP Tony Windsor has written to Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chairman Rod Sims, asking him to investigate whether price gouging is occurring in the city.
“What we would like to see is an explanation for these prices, and I think the public deserves an explanation for these prices,” Mr Windsor said.
Data from the Australian Institute of Petroleum for the week that ended on Sunday shows that while the average price fell 1.4 cents from the previous week to 148.7 cents a litre, Tamworth was the second-most expensive place in the state to buy petrol, ahead of Tumut and on par with Cooma.
In comparison, Glen Innes was among the cheapest in the region with an average weekly price of 136.5 cents per litre.
The average price in Tamworth was 10.2 cents dearer than the regional NSW average and 23.2 cents higher than the average metropolitan price.
The drop in price wasn’t even as substantial as that of the average regional price, which fell 3.3 cents from last week.
NRMA western region director Graham Blight said he believed price gouging was occurring.
“I think it’s an absolute disgrace,” Mr Blight said.
“I think the boys in Tamworth are having a real lend of everybody.”
According to Professor Frank Zumbo, who specialises in competition and consumer issues, from the University of NSW, national average prices fell about 18 per cent in recent weeks, but the average price in Tamworth fell by just eight cents a litre in the same time period.
“It’s the cosy club of companies pocketing the windfall at the expense of motorists,” Professor Zumbo said.
He said the prices most likely reflected a lack of competition among retailers in the city, with big companies dominating the market.
“There should be some serious questions being asked by the ACCC petrol commissioner,” Professor Zumbo said.
Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson has also voiced concern.
He said petrol stations should recognise their community service obligation and drop prices to a more reasonable level. Mr Anderson said while factors such as lower volumes, running costs, transport costs, smaller handling, less competition and the absence of a weekly discounting cycle contributed to higher prices than Sydney, they did not explain why Tamworth was among the most expensive in NSW.
According to price monitoring website Bowser Buster, Tamworth has consistently placed among the 13 most expensive places in the state to buy fuel since May, with one exception.