Caltex says it will defend claims by Australia’s consumer watchdog, that it used a third-party website to collude with other major players on petrol prices.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has alleged Caltex, along with BP, Woolworths, Coles, and 7-Eleven have used a third-party, price-monitoring website, ‘Informed Sources’ to fix their petrol prices.
The ACCC is taking the matter to court, claiming the website decreased competition and led to higher prices.
But Caltex’s corporate affairs manager Frank Topham said the company would defend any claim.
‘We believe there is nothing illegal about the oil price watch service so yes, we will be defending it,’ he told ABC Radio.
Mr Topham denied it allowed companies to collude on prices as the ACCC alleged.
‘This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the site,’ he said.
‘It’s not true that we can propose a price to competitors.
‘What we’re actually doing is observing through the oil price watch service, what is on price boards.
‘So there’s nothing secret about the prices. They’re all out there on price boards.”
Mr Topham said the prices shown on the website were about 30 minutes old but the website was needed because of market competition.
‘n any competitive market, like petrol retailing, we have to keep a very close watch on what our competitors are doing,’ he said.
‘That’s what the price watch service does.
‘The prices are all out there on price boards, so what the price watch service does is cut the cost of collecting the data.
‘If the price watch service didn’t exist, we’d have to collect the data off the price boards ourselves.
‘It absolutely increases competition and what we find is the ACCC is concentrating on a period of two days, roughly, when prices go up, forgetting the two weeks when prices go down.
‘So overall, it is absolutely in favour of the motorist.’