Fuel retailers fined for overcharging customers

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Consumer Protection is warning WA’s fuel retailers not to charge customers more than the amount reported to FuelWatch or displayed on their price boards and bowsers. It comes after complaints by drivers resulted in $1,000 infringement notices being issued to three separate petrol stations.

Allegations investigated in the last quarter of 2015 included:

  • A receipt showing a consumer had paid 133.9 cents per litre for diesel from a Fremantle site, run by a leading fuel supplier, when the price FuelWatch had been notified of, and was displaying on www.fuelwatch.wa.gov.au was only 128.9 cents per litre for that day.
  • An independent fuel retailer in Narrogin charging 129.9 cents per litre for unleaded petrol (91 Octane) when the price should have been 122.9 cents.
  • An independent site in Victoria Park selling ULP for 107.9 cents per litre instead of the 107.1 cents it was supposed to be charging.  

Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard says it is disappointing and unacceptable.

“Consumers need to be confident that prices reported to FuelWatch, and subsequently published on the FuelWatch website, are accurate. Clearly, drivers make petrol purchasing decisions based on this information and should not arrive at a filling station to find the true cost of fuel is higher than they were led to believe.

“The same principle applies to any price boards used by fuel retailers – prices charged at the bowser and cash register must match the amount displayed at the side of the road to bring in customers.

“In two of the recent cases the fuel retailers in question had been given educational advice previously about pricing errors, so it was appropriate to issue $1,000 infringement notices when further breaches were reported. All three fuel retailers have now paid their fines.”

The Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection would like to remind fuel retailers of their obligations under the Petroleum Products Pricing Act 1983 to notify FuelWatch by 2pm each day, of the next day's prices for each fuel type they sell.  

“After notifying FuelWatch of tomorrow’s prices, sites must stick with the reported price for 24 hours from 6am. If a retailer fails to notify FuelWatch by 2pm of a planned change to the next day’s prices, the prices must remain the same for another 24 hours from 6am. Prices cannot be altered until FuelWatch is notified and the notice must be given by 2pm ahead of a 6am change.

“Fuel retailers should consider the recent infringement notices as a reminder that the law exists to protect consumers and must be complied with. As well as infringement notices, we do also have the option to prosecute fuel retailers for breaches of legislation, with penalties of up to $20,000 per offence for individuals and  up to $100,000 per offence for corporations.”

WA consumers wishing to report allegations of overcharging or wrong price display can email fuelwatch@commerce.wa.gov.au or call 1300 30 40 54.

FuelWatch (www.fuelwatch.wa.gov.au) was set up more than 14 years ago to help WA motorists get the best deal when buying petrol. Before FuelWatch, Western Australians, were subject to frustrating petrol price fluctuations throughout the day, which are still experienced by drivers in the Eastern States.

Media contact (Consumer Protection)

Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard
Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard, by CP Media
David Hillyard, Acting Commissioner, by CP Media

 

Consumer Protection
Media release
21 Jan 2016

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