petrol price database close to illegal

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    Petrol price database close to illegal: ACCC

    Feb 22, 2008


    Mr Samuel says there needs to be further examination into whether the database raises issues under the Trade Practices Act. (Timothy Marshall)
    The head of the competition watchdog says the price sharing arrangements between the major oil companies borders on illegality.

    The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is investigating a computer database that allows the petrol companies Coles and Woolworths to monitor prices at individual petrol stations around Australia.

    ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel says it gives enormous power to companies to hike pump prices.

    Mr Samuel says there needs to be further examination into whether the database raises issues under the Trade Practices Act.

    "It is not - according to all our legal analysis - illegal under Australian law, but by golly it goes very close to it," he said.

    "Think of the advantage it gives the seller. The sellers are sitting there in their computer rooms in their head offices, and they're saying to themselves, 'if I want to hike the price up by 10 or 15 cents, [there's] very little risk'."

    Mr Samuel says there was no acceptable explanation for two price hikes in the past two months.

    He says that in January this year and in December the price of petrol at the pump did not match the movement of the international benchmark.

    "They went way beyond any spike that's occurred in the past," he said.

    "We need to remember these are not the weekly price spikes that we see as part of the volatile price cycles, these were spikes where there was a significant divergence of the order of 6 or 7 cents from that international benchmark which is the Singapore 95 unleaded benchmark.

    "That's when we become concerned, and frankly very irritable."

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/02/22/2170369.htm
 
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