Petrol prices in Brisbane have been significantly higher than those in the other four largest cities (i.e. Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth) in Australia for the last eight years.1 Between 2009–10 and 2016–17, Brisbane motorists paid on average 3.3 cents per litre (cpl) more for petrol than motorists in the other four largest cities.
The main factor influencing the higher prices in Brisbane is higher retail margins on petrol, which have contributed to profits in Brisbane being significantly higher than the average across Australia.
Over the last 10 years the number of retail sites in Brisbane has been broadly stable, at around 400 sites. However, compared with Sydney, Brisbane has fewer independent chains operating in the retail market, and they do not price as aggressively.
The cost to motorists in Brisbane of higher petrol prices has been significant, at around $50 million per annum. Over the eight-year period the estimated cost is in the region of $400 million.
Increased transparency and promotion of vigorous and effective price competition can lead to lower petrol prices. In Brisbane there is usually a wide range of prices at retail petrol sites across the city. Readily available information about current retail petrol prices, from fuel price websites and apps, enables motorists to shop around and purchase petrol at relatively lower priced retail sites.
Not only do motorists benefit from those lower prices, but the availability of petrol price data may promote competitive market behaviour. It will reward those retailers that are prepared to actively compete on price, because their pricing behaviour can be seen, and acted upon, by motorists.