Games Petrol Companies Play

A decade ago the price spread between 91 and 98 was about $0.12/litre. About 5-7 years ago it went to about $0.16, and today I found it had gone to $0.20 at my local Coles Shell servo. Why?

a) servos are not required to post prices for 95 and 98, only 91, and they are still allowed to post their discounted price for 91 (at least in VIC).
b) more cars today require 95 and 98 so the ratio of 95/98 to 91 is increasing over time, and they can price it “under the radar” (ref “a” above).
c) human nature generally does not pull into a servo, select the fuel grade and check the price and then drive away if it doesn’t “fit”.

While the country focuses on the banner prices for 91, those requiring 95 or 98 for modern fuel efficient engines are being done. The only organisation that does not seem to have a worry about this and the metro area price cycles vis a vis wholesale prices is the ACCC.

This should be a Choice investigation with a name and shame.


There are definitely some odd things going on. My car requires 95 RON, and last week I found one local servo selling 98 cheaper than anyone else’s 95, so I bought a half tank of 98, and then topped off with 91.

NSW service stations are required to have a fuel price sign (or signs) which:

  • displays the price of all fuels (for a service station that sells up to four fuels)
  • displays the prices of at least four fuels (for a service station that sells more than four fuels).

The fuel prices displayed must include the price of LPG and/or diesel if these are sold, and the top-selling fuels for that service station, to make up the minimum of four fuel prices.

There are moves to open up the servos’ real-time price data to all and sundry, so be on the lookout for websites and smartphone apps that enable you to (a) track the price cycle if you’re in an affected metro area, and (b) find the cheapest price for your required/preferred fuel.


I would like them to account for the cost of E10, considering that they don’t pay petrol tax on the ethanol. Just another ripoff? Choice could tell us!


A decade ago? - not entirely sure of the date on this, but the gap was originally 4 cents between 91 & 95 - then Coles & Woolworths introduced a 4 cent “discount” at the petrol stations they controlled - shortly after the introduction of that discount, the gap went to 5 cents, so the difference between 91 & 95 was no longer covered by their fuel discounts - was that “collusion” or they simply decided the same course of action simultaneously? - and the gap has been slowly but steadily increasing ever since.

What I don’t know, but would like to know, is how they price all the fuel in the first place. I’d like to see how the price has moved since it was around 70 cents a litre - compared with the movement in the price of a barrel of oil (adjusted for movements in the exchange rate - so the price per barrel would need to be express in AUS dollars, not US dollars). With all their “zigging” and “zagging” every week on prices, it seems to me that the price of petrol at the pump has risen FAR more than the oil price movement would suggest.

Not that anyone can control oil companies - world wide, they see themselves as “bigger than any nation on the planet” and “beyond the control of any government of any country”. (I had that from the horse’s mouth, years ago, when I had dealings with one of them).

But it would still be interesting to know just how far they have gone, in skimming us. Of course they will point to refining costs, transport costs, etc - and the Singapore petrol price, which is probably attractive to them as they shut down Australian refineries, because they can shield their “cost” off shore and mask “transfer pricing tactics” in the process. However, the price at the pump still means more to consumers than their internal financials, and I cannot believe current prices are the result of movements in EITHER the price per barrel of oil OR the US/AUD dollar exchange rate.

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I believe E10 is 90% petrol and 10% ethanol, so the tax saving on 10% would not be very much per litre.

Ah, yes, but much better in my pocket than Exxon’s, and it should be $5 a tank for me.

Why not, @pdtbaum? I do that when it is necessary. This is not the supplier’s fault,but the consumer’s.

$150/yr for the average petrol consumer is pretty significant if you ask me. If you don’t want your free $150 @petermac, I’ll take it. :wink:

@ccmpl: And they proved this to us in 1973 and 1979 when oil suppliers restricted sales of oil. This act quadrupled the cost per barrel and created artifical global recessions that forced western countries to ration their fuel and highlighted the ignorant dependence on oil as a commodity.

Not into psychology? A) Many people don’t bother to look at the price for 95/98 and assume the 91/95/98 prices are consistent based on the 91; B) if they do notice the $0.20 difference they will assume since the servos are generally in lock step, the next one down the road will be the same so driving around will be a waste of time and more petrol. But that is not your problem since you obviously look closely every time (if you care about the price) and maybe don’t even mind driving around. (The petrol apps are hit and miss.)

Studying the brain and the way we humans think and act is immensely curious, I don’t doubt that statement. What I alluded to was that we all have the choice of informing ourselves. It is not the suppliers fault for people choosing to not inform themselves. I’m not commenting on the fact that consumer groups providing products to allow for easier access to pricing information, or even legislation, will make the situation better - I think it will - all I said is that you can’t blame the supplier for not informing yourself.

Update - Our Woolies Caltex has a sign with 91 at 129.9 and (newly posted) 95 at 141.9 - a $0.12 spread. 2 km up the road the Coles Shell has 91 posted at 128.9 and nothing about 95/98 on the sign but on the bowser it revealed 95 was 143.9, a $0.15 spread

Nice trap for unsuspecting motorists who are not paying attention!


Having avoided Shells for years because of their aggressive pricing for 98, our toll road company, linkt, introduced their own $0.04 litre discount at Coles Shells in addition to the Coles discount. $0.08 per litre seems good.

Rocking into the local Shell that had the same prices as the Woolies Caltex for 91, the Shell 98 was a whopping $0.23 over the headline 91. The Caltex remained at a princely $0.20 premium above 91.

The game is still on and ever more profitable as more and more vehicles need premium fuels.

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In the ACCC’s nothing to be seen shop around mentality the Woolies Caltex nearest the Costco is always about $0.15/l less than any other Woolies Caltex in the area although still about $0.12/l higher than Costco. I am sure this is purely coincidental and the other Woolies Caltex servos will drop their prices at any moment.

Wished I lived closer to the Costco :frowning:

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Last week Premium 98 at Costco Ipswich price was 152.7 cents/litre, anyone else was 168.9 cents/litre for Regular ULP so add a further 20 cents or so for Premium. At their premium cost they even beat ULP by better than 10 cents/litre. Sometimes you see cars/utes etc with lots of jerry cans that they fill as well, best I have seen is 10 extra but that wasn’t a full tray of them.


Try Fuel Check app in NSW.

We have. ( member content )


I usually use Fuel Check but went to coles express today, just for the flybuys points (no, I’m not a dedicated flybuyer, I just need a few more to get something I want, and then the card will be cut up and binned)


Petrol companies might be having a P/L problem with reduced fuel use during COVID and locally the prices have been around $1.60~1.75/litre for 91.

Stopped at Costco for other things; they had 98 for $1.45. My closest Costco w/fuel is a good 30 minutes drive :frowning:

The ACCC is comfortable making vapid advisories as it is just another of many business tactics, this one well known.

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It’s complicated?

Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast urban jungle this morning U91 varies from 167.1 cpl up to 175.9 cpl.

Head slightly away from civilisation to Beerwah, Landsborough etc and it’s still only 143.7 - 146.9 cpl. BP, Shell, or Puma. Personal observation from the car plus a Petrol Spy.

It’s even more complicated when some are suggesting to the ABC on radio, the petrol companies use the public disclosure to reduce competition. IE It serves only the suppliers. As if they don’t already know? (Nudge nudge wink wink?)


Singapore Tapis crude oil prices (basis for fuel/oil price in Australia) have been also be steadily increasing over the past year as well…

It has gone from a low under $33 in August 2020 per barrel to just less than $85 at the moment.

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Even the ACCC doesn’t accept that is ‘it’. While I may be muddling price cycles from prices, from the ACCC link:

Price cycles are the result of deliberate pricing policies of petrol retailers, and are not directly related to changes in wholesale costs.

In my instance the price from petrol companies was consistent and pervasive across the metro region, yet Costco was, as is often the case, considerably less, and anecdotally does not seem to follow price cycles but does generally follow wholesale prices in some manner.

As was previously mentioned petrol stations near Costcos having fuel are also usually below their branded peers that are a few kms away, but still more than a few cents/litre higher than the Costco.

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