Top up to beat the rise

COFFS Coast drivers are set to be hit at the bowser this week again as petrol price rises are forecast ahead of the Easter long weekend.

And although the nation's consumer watchdog has warned petrol retailers not to raise prices unnecessarily, the outlook is grim.

The Australian Consumer watchdog boss Graham Samuel has urged motorists to make the most of the weekly price cycle by buying petrol tomorrow.

"Try to buy sooner, the best that we can advise at the moment is to watch the price cycle movements," Mr Samuel said.

"The bottom of the cycle is mostly like to occur tomorrow.

"Buy then, don't wait until Wednesday or Thursday because there's every prospect of a price cycle hike.

The ACCC says it will monitor pump prices and expose any retailer that lifts fuel prices above the Singapore benchmark.

ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said the petrol retailers would be held accountable.

"We don't want to see a divergence from the Singapore benchmark. If there is ... we'll investigate the books of the companies concerned, we will find out who is responsible, and we will expose that nationwide," Mr Samuel said.

Mr Samuel also said the monitoring powers, given to the ACCC at the end of last year, will keep the industry transparent.

"Be assured, motorists, that we are trying to hold the petrol companies to account," he said.

"We have asked for information. We have asked them to advise us by Tuesday next week whether or not there is any reason for their prices to move out of sync with that Singapore benchmark.

"If there's no reason then there should be no movement out of sync."

The fuel rise debate has many politicians angry.

And Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson believes the federal government also had to act.

"Mr Rudd last year said the buck would be stopping with him in relation to our cost of living pressures, and I think it's very important that Mr Rudd, and the government, and Graeme Samuel keep maximum pressure up on the oil companies, especially over Easter," he said.

"We will be very concerned if there is any price gouging, if there is any attempt at all to take hard-earned money out of the pockets of decent, hard-working Australians over the the Easter break."

The national average price of unleaded petrol rose for the third consecutive week last week.

The price rose by 0.9 cents a litre to 138.7 cents a litre in the week to March 9, figures from the Australian Institute of Petroleum show.

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