ACT News

Costco fuels excitement but it's not all good news for Canberra drivers

Costco members aren't the only people likely to benefit from cheaper fuel prices when the retail giant opens a petrol station at its Majura Park store this summer, but petrol in the capital isn't likely to drop in price further afield.

In a promising sign for Canberra, motorists in the Brisbane suburb of North Lakes are still benefitting from petrol prices up to 20 cents per litre cheaper than elsewhere in the city since Costco opened a petrol station there four months ago.  

"What we've seen in that North Lakes area is a real drop in prices, so Costco is selling at really cheap prices, but prices have also dropped at servos nearby," Royal Automobile Club of Queensland spokeswoman, Renee Smith said.

"We have the price cycle in Brisbane, and at the peak … prices have risen but what we've seen is Costco keeping them really low, so there are times when prices can be 20¢ cheaper at Costco.

"We can't look into the crystal ball and see what they do in the future, but so far they have kept prices down."

But Ms Smith said it hasn't been good news for the whole city.

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"It means great deals for those in the area, but unfortunately the introduction of one service station isn't going to bring down prices for the wider Brisbane region."

While only Costco members can fill up at a Costco petrol station – a membership card needs to be presented to operate the bowser – it's not only members who are reaping the rewards of the increased competition .

"Going by trends in Brisbane and also in Sydney  … the introduction of Costco and those cheap prices does bring down prices in [the immediate areas], so we would expect that you would see similar trends down [in Canberra]."

The news of more competition in the ACT was welcomed by the NRMA as well as local politicians, as drivers have routinely paid more at the pump in Canberra than nearby NSW towns and other metro areas. 

Costco is already a major petrol retailer in the United States, using the lure of heavily discounted fuel to sell memberships – currently $60 per year in Australia - and drive sales in its warehouse stores.

Memberships need to be purchased inside the warehouse before drivers can access fuel at a Costco service station, and the service stations don't accept cash; only credit or debit cards.

A Woolworths-operated Caltex service station on Majura Road will be the Costco service station's nearest competition, and a Woolworths spokesman said they "welcome the competition in the petrol market".

"We place no restrictions on who can visit our service stations and will continue to offer great value fuel and convenience items to our customers," the spokesman said.

Costco Wholesale Australia managing director Patrick Noone hosed down the excitement around dramatically cheaper fuel on Tuesday, saying the Brisbane station currently offered petrol at 3¢ to 4¢ less than its competitors and 2¢ to 3¢ cheaper than in Sydney.

That might make a trip to Majura Park less worthwhile for many Canberra commuters, just as the 30 kilometre trip north from Brisbane could be excessive to go to that Costco petrol station, but the RACQ recommends drivers access it when they can.

"We wouldn't recommend people spending too much time and money on driving too far to fill up, but what we recommend is anyone who's in the area or passing by should absolutely take advantage of those low prices, because they have been consistently low in the area since the introduction of Costco," Ms Smith said.

with Noel Towell

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