The initiative by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) that will see supermarkets stick to helping shoppers with lower grocery pricing instead of subsidising fuel offers is music to the ears of all our small, often family-owned and run, petrol filling stations, according to Brian Madderson, chairman of the Petrol Retailers Association.
"These retailers are facing extinction by the aggressive price discounting from the ’big four’ UK supermarkets," he said.
"In direct contrast it appears to their counterparts in Australia, supermarkets discounting fuel is one of the many issues that the UK’s Office of Fair Trading (OFT) turned their back on when they published findings last month following their ’Call for Information’.
Madderson continued: “Our members have provided data to the OFT showing that fuel discounts lead to higher in-store grocery pricing which is clearly to the detriment of all those shoppers not buying fuel at that store. Instead, supermarkets should help shoppers with the lower grocery pricing as they will be forced to do in Australia and not distort the competitive process in the fuels market.
“We provided evidence to the OFT that each new supermarket forecourt takes away the entire fuel volume from five existing independents in that area. This directly leads to local job losses and reduction in local amenities, especially as many new hypermarket forecourts are now being built as ’automats’ without the need for any staff. Aggressive pricing and discounting has already forced the closure of thousands of independents and that trend will continue without the sort of pragmatic action now being proposed in Australia.”
Madderson said the decision by the OFT to ignore all evidence and decline to undertake the full Market Study needed has been roundly criticised by motoring organisations, trade bodies and MPs from every political party.
"This bold proposal by the ACCC shows the OFT how to take the lead in ensuring fair competition for the petrol retailing sector. Now is the time for the OFT to re-consider its position with the UK market before yet more independent forecourts close their pumps, never to re-open for business."