Petrol price jumps 17c a litre
By Byron Kaye
March 09, 2007 06:00am
MOTORISTS were dealt the biggest petrol price hike in years yesterday - but the big oil companies said they were the ones suffering.
Fuel prices rose overnight by up to 17c a litre to $1.30 in Sydney, the highest level since September last year.
Putting extra strain on the weekly budget, the cost of filling up the average family car leapt by nearly $10.
But a spokesman for BP - which recently posted a $28 billion annual profit - said it was actually the petrol companies which were struggling.
"It's a signal competition has reduced prices, that people - retailers - are actually suffering," he said.
"It's a sign of retailers not being able bear that pressure of (petrol prices) being so low. It's forced back up."
Motoring groups said the price rise was timed to hit on the most expensive day of the week to buy petrol, Thursday.
"It's just the oil companies profiteering at motorists' expense," NRMA president Alan Evans said. "They know they can get away with it. There'll be an outcry, they'll ride that out and then they'll move it back up again.
"Thursday is usually the day when the price of fuel rises and they think we've been lulled into the belief that that's what it is. But it's much more than that."
Service Stations Association acting CEO Colin Long blamed lack of competition, with a handful of petrol companies and supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths controlling 60 per cent of the industry.
"The underlying factor in all of this is the continuing domination of these oil companies, particularly in their alliances with the supermarkets," he said.
"You're going to see more of this because the oil companies have just got so much control now."
The sudden price increase followed weeks of slow rises in the price of crude oil in the United States.
That affects the price of refined oil in Singapore, which determines what Australians pay at the bowser.
But since February 26 the refined oil price has risen just 7.6c a litre, less than half the extra cost inflicted yesterday.
The BP spokesman said: "7.6c is the increase in the cost of the product. The other part to it is the weekly price cycle ... or competition".
Mr Evans said: "There's no two ways about it, it's more than coincidence that they all move up at the same time."
A spokeswoman for Caltex - which recently posted a $430 million annual profit - said the wholesale price rise was behind yesterday's move.
"Caltex rejects the accusation that a little extra was added," she said.
ACCC spokeswoman Lin Enright said the competition watchdog continued to monitor petrol prices.
"If there is evidence of anti-competitive conduct, we will investigate it," she said.