20 cents a litre difference in fuel prices

HUGE discrepancies in petrol prices have been recorded around the Hunter with motorists slugged almost 20¢ more a litre at some stations than others just down the road.

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Prices yesterday ranged from $1.53 a litre for E10 unleaded at the 7-Eleven in Hannell Street down to $1.36 at the United Service station on Industrial Drive two kilometres away.

The NRMA said the most expensive unleaded petrol in the region on Monday was $1.57 a litre while the cheapest was $1.39.

The Service Station Association said the large price range reflected operators at different ends of the weekly price discount cycle.

General manager Ron Bowden said that where once the cycle was predictable, now operators started and finished the cycle on different days.

Some were choosing to stay at the bottom of the cycle longer and earn it back later, he said.

‘‘In the past 12 months it has become more muddy,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s quite hard for motorists to predict when there will be cheap days.’’

Mr Bowden said some motorists were getting below wholesale prices.

‘‘What we are seeing at the moment is competition at work,’’ he said.

He said that while the consumer won, it appeared the industry could not.

‘‘If all the service stations are exactly the same we get accused of colluding,’’ he said.

‘‘If we have different prices then people ask why.’’

The NRMA said the huge discrepancies had been experienced in Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle, where there were fewer independent operators and less competition.

Hunter-based NRMA director Kyle Loades said less than 10per cent of Hunter stations were independent and urged people to support them to promote competition.

‘‘The bottom line is that people should shop around,’’ he said.

Mr Loades said NRMA research also found that motorists using discount vouchers were not getting what they thought.

Independent operator Adam Sovechles from the BP at Newcastle West said the change in the discount cycle had been prompted by the entrance of 7-Eleven to the Newcastle market, which recently took over Mobil stations.

‘‘They might be going just for volume, they want to get people in,’’ he said.

‘‘They will lose money on fuel and make it back in other areas.’’

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