The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has commenced a formal investigation into price information sharing arrangements in the retail petrol industry.
The ACCC is concerned that such arrangements may breach the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.
“The ACCC has put the industry on notice for some time about its concerns in this area,” ACCC commissioner Joe Dimasi said.
The petrol price sharing arrangements allow for the private and very frequent exchange of comprehensive price information between the major petrol retailers. The ACCC is concerned that this allows petrol retailers to quickly signal price movements, monitor competitors’ responses, and react to them.
The ACCC is concerned that these arrangements lessen price competition in petrol retailing to the detriment of consumers. The competition provisions of the Act prohibit contracts, arrangements or understandings that have the purpose, effect or likely effect of substantially lessening competition.
“The ACCC has now commenced a formal investigation into this matter, and a dedicated investigation team has been assigned,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.
“While the ACCC does not usually comment on its current investigations, the ACCC considered it appropriate to inform the public that it is undertaking this investigation given the significant public interest regarding petrol pricing,” Mr Sims said.
Investigations of this kind are necessarily complex and generally involve extensive evidence gathering followed by legal and economic analysis. Given this, the ACCC anticipates this investigation will take some time. The ACCC does not intend to make any public comment about the progress of the investigation, nor engage in speculation as to its likely outcome.