Fuel price drop good while it lasted

COFFS Harbour motorists have experienced one of the largest drops in petrol prices in NSW, but the region still remains one of the most expensive for fuel.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's quarterly report into nation-wide fuel prices revealed Coffs Harbour fuel prices dropped by 10% in the March quarter.

Motorists paid an average of $1.33 per litre from January to March, down from $1.44 between October and December last year.

NRMA director Wendy Machin said the low differential was good news for regional motorists.

"The improvement Coffs Harbour has seen in petrol prices is due to the joint scrutiny of the NRMA and local media which encouraged motorists to avoid overpricing at the pump and to use social media to name and shame certain stations," Ms Machin said.

The ACCC report also found the average regional bowser price was only 1.9 cents more than metropolitan areas in the March quarter, down from 17.5 cents per litre in December.

Coffs Harbour fuel prices, however, remained higher than Sydney ($1.30 per litre) and nearby regional centres including Glen Innes ($1.28), Lismore ($1.30), Grafton ($1.32) and Kempsey ($1.32).

ACCC chairman Rod Sims added the lows recorded in early February were short-lived.

"Crude oil prices in February and March 2015 rebounded, influenced by increased political tensions in the Middle East and improved market sentiment due to a reduction in the number of active oil rigs in the US," Mr Sims said.

He said crude oil prices had increased by 19 per cent from the middle of January to the end of March, but there had been an even bigger increase in international refined petrol prices.

This was attributed to industrial action at US refineries and maintenance shutdowns in Asia.

The Australian to US dollar exchange rate also decreased.

"The weaker Australian dollar meant that international refined petrol prices were around 4 cents per litre higher than they otherwise would have been, had the exchange rate remained steady," Mr Sims said.

"As a result, retail prices in the five largest cities increased by around 30 per cent from early February to end the March quarter at around 133 cents per litre."



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