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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.

Fuel price reporting trial

All fuel retailers in Queensland must report their normal fuel prices, and changes to these prices, as part of a 2-year trial which started on 3 December 2018.

Normal fuel prices are the prices charged without any discount being applied, and this fuel price information is then made available to consumers via fuel price websites and apps.

Under the Fair Trading (Fuel Price Reporting) Regulation 2018, fuel retailers must report changes within 30 minutes of the price changing at the bowser. If you notice a fuel retailer is missing from the fuel price websites and apps, or is reporting incorrect fuel prices, you can lodge a complaint.

A list of fuel price websites and apps is available.

Fuel price boards

Since 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.

This means 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.

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

When the fuel price is being:

  • increased, the fuel retailer must change the price displayed on each price board before changing it at the bowsers, or at the same time
  • decreased, the fuel retailer must change the price displayed at the bowsers before changing it on the fuel price boards, or at the same time.

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 checking fuel price apps and websites, and 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 areas
  • watch out for any price irregularities
  • look into claims of illegal activities.

You can also find out about price movement, cycles and trends 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
  • on any advertising
  • reported under the Fair Trading (Fuel Price Reporting) Regulation 2018.

Find out more about multiple pricing.

Bait advertising

Service stations must have a reasonable supply of fuel to meet demand. They must not just try to ‘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.

Under the Fair Trading (Fuel Price Reporting) Regulation 2018, if a fuel type is temporarily unable to be offered for sale the retailer must ensure this unavailability is reported so that consumers using fuel price websites and apps are aware.

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 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.