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Recent hikes in fuel prices have left many consumers searching for the best deal and trying to understand the reasons behind fluctuating prices.
The price of fuel, like other retail products, is market driven and the government does not set the price.
Consumer Protection operates the FuelWatch website which offers transparency in terms of what the prices at the pumps will do in the next 24 hours, so you can use this information to plan your fuel purchases and save cash.
The free mobile-friendly website gets an average of more than one million visits each month. It was set up 18 years ago by the State Government to empower consumers to make informed fuel purchase decisions.
Perth metropolitan fuel retailers and most in regional WA are required to notify FuelWatch by 2pm of their next day's retail price for each type of fuel they sell, and then retailers must stay at the notified price for 24 hours from 6am.
FuelWatch collates the data and releases it on its website, and in a personalised form to its email subscribers, at 2.30pm each day. The information includes a list of the cheapest places to buy petrol, diesel or LPG in the Perth metropolitan area which is broken up into three regions - East/Hills, North of the River and South of the River.
The lists include the trading or brand names of each retailer and where the service stations are located.
Generally, the petrol price cycle in the Perth metropolitan area runs so that Monday is the cheapest day to fill up and Tuesday is the most expensive. The price cycle exists for petrol products, not for diesel or LPG. Regional centres don’t generally have a cycle but these products will still be sold at different prices.
Price competition is promoted if consumers purchase at cheaper retailers and, on some days, there can be as much as a 25 cent per litre price difference on unleaded petrol between different retailers.
FuelWatch estimates that by buying fuel at the cheapest site, instead of the most expensive, motorists in the metropolitan area could save up to $15 on a 60 litre tank.
While the FuelWatch data indicates that, based on yearly averages, independent fuel retail sites generally offer cheaper prices, it’s not recommended to be loyal to any particular brand as prices can vary from site to site on any day.
According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the petrol price cycle is a pricing strategy led by the major fuel retailers. Petrol price cycles are not unique to Perth, and occur in the five major Australian capital cities and many cities overseas in varying lengths and magnitudes.
The wholesale price of petrol is strongly influenced by the exchange rate and the relevant international benchmark price, which can be driven higher due to conflict in an oil-producing country.
Right now the Singapore benchmark price for petrol is high, combined with a weakened Australian dollar. Previously, when we have seen high benchmark prices we have been cushioned from price rises by a strong Australian dollar.
So check the FuelWatch website at www.fuelwatch.wa.gov.au to find the cheapest fuel in your area. Consumers can also subscribe to FuelWatch's free personalised fuel price email service – the link is on the website or phone 1300 304 054.