Nobody’s laughing at servos’ April fuel joke

REGIONAL motorists have become accustomed to the ridiculous disparity in fuel prices as they travel from one town to the next.

For no apparent reason it is not unusual for fuel to be 10 or 20 cents a litre cheaper or more expensive at the next town down the highway. It’s exasperating and insulting – but not as bad as seeing the same ridiculous discrepancies within the one town.

Latest figures provided to the Western Advocate by the NRMA have revealed a 24 cents a litre variation in Bathurst fuel prices between the cheapest and most expensive local outlets over the past week.

While the average price at Bathurst outlets was 141.5 cents a litre, savvy motorists were able to fill their tank for as little as 130.9 cents a litre while the less discerning paid as much as 155 cents.

And while it’s all well and good to say it’s up to the motorist to shop around or  the best deal, there can be no justification for such a range.

And Bathurst was not even the worst for it. In Lithgow, the average fuel price over the past week was slightly lower than ours at 138.1 but prices ranged from 120.9 to 149.9.

The cost of fuel has always been a source of complaint for motorists, but particularly in regional areas where a lack of public transport forces most families to rely solely on their cars to get around.

But, like electricity, it has also been something of a “grudge” cost – one we just accept we have to pay whether we like it or not, meaning fuel companies have much greater power than most businesses to manipulate the price.

Not even the introduction of compulsory price reporting has had much of an impact, with a recent report from the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) concluding the laws are instead being used by service stations for “tacit collusion” over prices.

The sad truth is, most of us are creatures of habit and that extends to our fuel buying.

Most of us go to the same service station each time we fill up, and most of us wait until the gauge is flashing bright red before we bother even thinking about it.

The fuel companies know this and they’re clearly profiting from it. Perhaps the only solution is for each of us to break our habits and start buying fuel wherever – and whenever – we see a good price.

Service stations and fuel companies show no loyalty to motorists.

It’s time we returned the favour.