HIGH domestic petrol prices are influenced by international trends rather than price gouging retailers, the competition watchdog says.In its 2011/12 annual report on domestic prices, costs and profits of unleaded petrol, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said consumers were to some extent insulated from even higher prices by the strong Australian dollar.
"The main influences on domestic petrol prices in Australia are international prices, which reached record levels during 2011/12 despite weak global economic conditions," ACCC commissioner Joe Dimasi said in a statement.
The ACCC surveyed retail fuel prices in five Australian capital cities, to find prices reached an average of $1.43 per litre.
Over the last decade, petrol prices had risen by around 120 per cent, although this was comparable to the relevant international benchmark price, Singapore Mogas 95, which rose around 122 per cent.
The ACCC said the international price of petrol plus taxes accounted for 88 per cent of the retail price of petrol, while local wholesale and retail impact accounted for just 12 per cent.
Weak economic conditions in developed countries and slower growth of Asian economies were not enough to offset the effects of Middle East unrest on prices, it added.
Neither was a continued depletion of low-cost conventional crude oil supplies, which kept crude oil prices at their highest annual levels ever during the year.
At the service station level, margins on fuel remained low with the sector earning an average 1.5 cents a litre across all fuel products.
Taking into account convenience store sales of other items - such as groceries - the margin rose to 2.4 cents a litre.
The whole supply sector, including Australian refineries and imports, lost 1.54 cents a litre on all products.
The ACCC said price cycles in cites and relatively higher prices in regional centres continued to be the main sources of consumer concern.
"The sharp price rises during a price cycle drive many complaints to the ACCC," Mr Dimasi said.
"Although, it is also the case that many consumers take advantage of the low point in the cycle to purchase petrol."