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Buying fuel

The Office of Fair Trading does not regulate the price of fuel. No government agency, sets the price of fuel, nor can any agency force traders to sell fuel for less.

Instead, the market determines how much it costs. Traders in all industries react to market forces. As a consumer, you can help to influence the market by the choices you make about how and where you spend your money.

Doing a bit of homework can help you make informed choices about fuel and how you use your car.

Fuel price boards

New laws mean that from 31 January 2018 fuel retailers are prohibited from listing conditionally discounted fuel on their price boards.

  • Price boards are boards, signs and notices that are visible to motorists as they pass by service stations.
  • Conditional discounts are those that are only available to some customers.  Examples include customers with shopper dockets, vouchers, reward schemes, and those who are eligible for a discount if they make an in store purchase.

These new laws mean that the price motorists see on fuel price boards will be the maximum they pay for their fuel.

Fuel retailers can still provide conditional discounts to customers, however these discounted fuel prices must not appear on their price boards.

The regulation also sets how fuel retailers must make updates or changes to their fuel prices.

  • When the fuel price is to be increased - the fuel retailer must change the price displayed on each price board before (or at the same time) as it is changed at the bowsers.
  • When the fuel price is to be decreased - the fuel retailer must change the price displayed at the bowers before (or at the same time) as it its changed on the fuel price boards

Prices

A lot of factors can influence the price you end up paying for fuel. These include:

  • changes in international prices
  • movements in the currency exchange rate
  • local factors, such as competition and availability
  • the price cycle
  • the cost of transporting fuel to the service station
  • federal and state taxes and excises.

Shop around for the best price and do your homework when buying fuel. You can do this by taking advantage of the price cycle. Most service stations have days when fuel is cheaper. The price cycle varies in different locations around Queensland, but tends to be 7–10 days long.

Monitoring

Service stations must not take part in anti-competitive activities (such as price fixing).

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) monitors the price of fuel every day. The ACCC does not set the price of fuel.

They:

  • give details of price changes in capital cities
  • monitor prices in regional area
  • watch out for any price irregularities
  • look into claims of illegal activities.

You can also find out about prices from:

Multiple prices

Service stations must not make false or misleading claims about their prices.

This means the price listing should be the same:

  • on fuel price boards
  • on all other signs
  • at the pump
  • at the cash register.

Find out more about multiple pricing

Bait advertising

Service stations must have a reasonable supply of fuel to meet demand. They must not just ‘switch’ you to higher-priced fuel if the advertised cheaper fuel has run out.

If a type of fuel runs out, the service station must remove their price listings for that fuel as soon as is practical.

Find out more about bait advertising

Quality

The Australian Government looks after fuel quality. They maintain standards for:

  • unleaded petrol
  • ethanol and ethanol-blended petrol
  • diesel and biodiesel
  • autogas (LPG fuel).

Find out more about fuel quality

Accuracy

The Australian Government checks that fuel pumps are accurate. They make sure that pumps:

  • measure fuel accurately
  • calculate the right price
  • display these figures correctly.

You should always:

  • check that the price on the pump matches the price on the sign
  • make sure that the pump is set to zero before you start
  • work out the price for yourself and check that it matches the price calculated by the pump
  • remember the pump number and price so the cashier doesn’t charge you incorrectly
  • check your receipt.

Find more details about pump accuracy

Complaints

If you have a problem with a service station, the first thing you should do is talk to them. Most people want to do the right thing and will be happy to fix any problems.

Talk to the business

You can call in, phone or write to the manager. Make sure you set out the problem and how you want them to fix it.

Get some tips

Lodge a complaint

Sometimes the business won’t help. If this happens, you can make a formal complaint.

Click on the type of complaint you wish to make (some options will take you to other websites).

Anti-competitive activities (such as price fixing)

Misleading signage or bait advertising

Fuel quality

Pump accuracy

Last updated
31 January 2018
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