ACT News

Canberra and south coast consumers launch boycott campaigns against big petrol

Canberra and south coast motorists are organising boycotts of chain brand petrol stations to protest what they say are "unfair" prices.

While Canberra Fuel Watch activists observed "no fuel Friday", south coast residents are organising a three-day boycott of the Batemans Bay Caltex and Shell petrol stations next week to protest what they say are historical failures to pass on lower oil prices.

The ACT Fuel Watch group, whose Facebook page boasts nearly 20,000 "likes", urged motorists not to buy fuel or retail items from Canberra service stations outside the cheaper Majura stations on Friday.

The south coast activists, with nearly 400 "likes" on their Facebook page, said taking away "as much fuel sales as we can from the big three over a three-day period will go a long way toward the big companies giving us a fair price for fuel".

The move comes as the NRMA urges motorists to "take the fight to the fuel companies with people power" and run daily comparisons of petrol prices.

Activists in Canberra, as well as the NSW towns of Dubbo and Young, have been running daily comparisons to attempt to move prices. The campaign has even been taken on by some newspapers.

The arrival of the Costco petrol station near Canberra Airport, along with smartphone apps such as PetrolSpy, was expected to lead to a "discounting cycle" across the territory.

While it did lead to lower prices, stations elsewhere in Canberra have declined to lower their prices to the same level. 

The three-day south coast boycott is expected to be held from January 28 to 30. Organisers are urging motorist to fill up at the Cullendulla, Banandarah, and Tomakin service stations, instead of those held by the large companies in Batemans Bay.

Michael Key, a manager at Cullendulla Roadhouse, said he was concerned about a long-term drop in prices by the major retailers.

"If it [the boycott ultimately] drives down the price and we're not able to compete, what happens to the independents?," he said.

Mr Keys agreed that petrol pricing in the bay was "not as fierce as in the major capital cities" but said this was to be expected in a regional area.

"We don't go through a huge volume of customers like the metro sites where they're discounting the petrol," he said.

A manager at the Tomakin Auto Centre, who only gave the name Matt, said he was aware of the boycott but would not comment on whether he expected a boost in business over the three days.

In December, Chief Minister Andrew Barr asked the competition watchdog to investigate Canberra's long-standing high petrol prices

The step follows a 2013 University of New England Business School study, which found Canberra was one of 28 regions nationally where motorists were more likely to pay too much for petrol.