Mandate Fuel Prices VIC+ACT

Retail Fuel Price Transparency

Nobody likes monopolies, or secret collusive practices that harm consumers. People want fair, open marketplaces that are well run, and well regulated to protect consumers. Laws on retailers providing transparency in pricing are a long standing feature in all countries. Except the move to the digital age has some dragging the chain.

Around the world, many countries mandate fuel price reporting. This means retailers must provide free electronic access to their prices, to help consumers make informed decisions, and to reduce collusive practices and hidden deals. It levels the playing field, without monopolies, if everyone can always see all the prices without barriers or high costs.

In Australia, fuel pricing transparency was pushed by the ACCC, after market manipulation via price fixing, and restrictive monopolies and contracts was alleged in 2014. Federal Court enforceable undertakings were signed by all major players the ACC originally targeted, which were BP, Coles, Woolworths and 7-Eleven.

Mandated Fuel Prices

Collecting retail fuel prices is not easy without 'a system'. Traditional methods include private contracts with retailers to data share (a potential problem for commercial conflicts), or community sourced information (Drivers reporting prices manually on visits). These lead to inaccuracies in human collected prices, delays and a disparity in price data availability for regional areas. If nobody helpful uses an app to manually report a fuel price in a regional area, it may not be available for a week or two and thus be out of date.

To further improve transparency, various state governments have mandated fuel price data in legislation. In Australia, NSW, QLD, SA, WA, NT and TAS all support mandated fuel price data to everyone, freely, and electronically via government schemes. This means everyone has the same information, it's accurate and timely.

PARTIAL SUCCESS: It's unlikely we had significant input, but we have been lobbying the South Australian government to implement mandated fuel pricing, which was announced but has suffered delays in implementation. As at March 2021, there was success as this scheme finally became a reality and is now available.

Victoria Fails to Mandate Fuel Prices

The second largest state of Australia Victoria currently has no scheme in place to mandate fuel prices, or any indication they will soon. This is a concern within the industry. It adds friction and uncertainty, akin to an indirect protection of the fossil fuel market in this state by limiting transparency and accuracy.

Furthermore, Victoria has recently introduced a new tax on EV's, which is unprecedented in the world, and has led to much global scorn, and news headlines of Victoria being a laughing stock. It has been dubbed the 'Clean air tax', and akin to taxing ex smokers for no longer paying tobacco tax. EV's already pay far more than petrol cars in tax, and don't pollute the air as petrol cars do. Major vehicle manufacturers have indicated Australia's poor support of EV's is a reason they are restricted in providing their models there. Unsurprisingly, there are some hilarious memes about Victoria's unfortunate stance on EV's. Except they are true.

Part of the solution to improving climate change and air pollution (poison) is to provide clearer fossil fuel price data, ideally mandated by the government and highly accessible. This allows innovation in the use of such fuels, better trip pricing, more savings for consumers.

It also indirectly puts some pressure on the oil and gas vendors to be more efficient, by exposing price margins better. We do hope that Victoria isn't comfortable supporting fossil fuels unnecessarily, and protecting the industry by keeping retail fuel pricing out of mandated transparency.

Because the unusual EV 'Clean air tax' does put Victoria under an uncomfortable spotlight. Are you paying too much at the bowser? Is our environment heating and being poisoned more that it should? Retail price transparency is a small part of the puzzle. Let's get it right!

Campaign Request: Mandate Fuel Prices VIC

We call upon the Australian Victorian government, and Hon. Lily D'Ambrosio who is the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, and Minister for Solar Homes. We ask that Victoria align with all other Australian states, and implement mandated fuel pricing.

While community sourced fuel data is available, this is not complete, accurate, free, and doesn't cover regional areas as well as metro. Additionally, some data providers who are not bound by ACCC initiated Federal court undertakings simply refuse to provide fuel data to third parties. As an example, OPIS provides global fuel price data including to Australian commercial customers, but only to commercially friendly vendors. They refused to provide fuel price data to NeoMatrix.

Similarly, HERE is another major global provider, who deal in retail fuel price data, but refuse to provide data to mobile app vendors, but do sell fuel data to OEM providers like major vehicle manufacturers. Being based outside of Australia, vendors like HERE, OPIS and others, may limit the ACCC's ability to bring restrictive trade practices to the Federal Court, as was done in 2014. This action involved an Australian based retail fuel provider Informed Sources (bound by the ACCC's Federal court undertaking + agreement).

Victoria is already under the spotlight for it's unusual decision to introduce the 'Clean air tax' (as its becoming known) on EV's while most other countries subsidise and support EV's. So we encourage Victoria to mandate fuel price data, and provide it freely electronically to all just as the rest of Australia does (bar the ACT), and help improve the efficiency in our road system.

We note that we are not the only one campaigning for this outcome in Victoria.

Partial Success: While prices in VIC and ACT are not yet mandated by governments, we are pleased to be now engaging with Informed Sources in relation to commercial access to fuel price data in VIC and ACT. While not finalised yet, we have now received legal contract documents from them in relation to receiving their fuel price data, so this is certainly good news, and is a positive sign of at least a somewhat open market, without onerous anti competitive restrictions. Government support in mandates though, would certainly help, as commercial access to fuel price data can be very expensive for startups, and thus restrict some novel applications.

Update - Failure: While we earnestly attempted to secure commercial access (such as from providers like Informed Sources) to fuel price data to assist drivers, we have been unsuccessful. Initial inquiries seemed positive, but ultimately restrictions on the use of vendor price data prevent novel solutions like trip fuel cost computing or price predictions etc (and with server side processing) within commercially viable terms. Use of price data for these cases is easy in all other states of Australia which have implemented mandated fuel pricing.

The failure to support commercially viable terms for fair access to fuel price data should be seen as a solid reason to push further for the VIC and ACT governments to finally bring into line their laws to support transparent fuel pricing data be available, like all other states have done.

Campaign Request: Mandate Fuel Prices ACT

ACT is at least different to Victoria, in that it is an early supporter of electric vehicles, and provides strong EV subsidies and other support which is excellent to see. However, together with Victoria, the two regions are the holdouts, in not mandating retail fuel prices, to encourage transparency, accuracy, timeliness and fairness in the market.

We call upon the Australian Minister for Trade, Industry and Investment, Andrew Barr and the Australian Capital Territory to mandate fuel price data.

We note that we are not the only one campaigning for this outcome in ACT.