Commerce Commission to investigate fuel prices

Petrol_pump_mp3h0355As New Zealand fuel prices hit record highs, the Commerce Commission has begun a market study into factors which may affect competition in the supply of retail petrol and diesel used for land transport.

New Zealand saw a a 7 per cent increase in fuel spending over the September quarter to $150 million, driven by the 11.5 cents per litre Auckland regional fuel tax which went into effect earlier in the year.

“We are aware of recent concerns relating to retail fuel prices,” Commerce Commission chairman Dr Mark Berry said.

“This is a complex market and we expect we will need the full 12 months to complete the study… we intend to publish working papers during the first half of this study, with a draft report released by August next year and the final report in December [2019].”

The recent hike in fuel prices has led to a number of Kiwis filling up without paying. Fuel chain Z Energy has witnessed a slight increase in the number of drive-offs, according to the Otago Daily Times.

According to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden consumers are being “fleeced” at the pump.

“I am hugely concerned at the level of price that consumers are currently paying at the pump for fuel,” Arden said during a post-cabinet press conference earlier this year, noting the margin on petrol has doubled since 2008 from 7 per cent to 16 per cent.

“That increase represents a transfer of wealth from petrol consumers to producers to the tune of hundreds and millions of dollars a year.”

The Commerce Commission study seeks to gather evidence from a wide range of stakeholders, including the fuel industry, motoring groups, consumer bodies and consumers themselves.

Next week, the commission will publish a process paper on the study, as well as a statement of preliminary issues that interested parties will be able to submit on to be unveiled before Christmas.

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