BENDIGO has missed the peaks in petrol price cycles that have plagued metropolitan areas.

As of late as last week, Bendigo’s average price per litre for unleaded fuel was six cents cheaper than in Melbourne, the state average and the state regional average.

As Melbourne drivers struggled with a price spike of $1.57 at the end of May, Bendigo’s high was $1.51.

Peaks and troughs are more subdued than in metro areas, which means regional prices rarely hit troubling highs that they do in Melbourne, but nor do drivers enjoy the extent of the low prices.

The trend is typical for regional areas, with prices following wholesale prices.

Petrol prices in regional cities tend to follow changes in the metropolitan areas with a time lag.

Drivers in large regional cities such as Bendigo and Geelong benefit from having strong competition among fuel retailers.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which monitors fuel prices, advises that the best way not to pay too much for petrol is to avoid buying at the peak of prices.

Bendigo enjoyed cheaper petrol prices than Melbourne in three out of the four years studied as part of a state government enquiry into regional fuel price disadvantage.

Nazih Elasmar, chair of the Victorian Parliament’s Economic, Education, Jobs and Skills Committee conceded there were few recommendations it could make to reduce regional petrol prices because “most of the retail fuel price consists of the international benchmark price and Australian government taxes”.

Based on experience in other Australian states, mandatory reporting of fuel prices did little to reduce the cost of petrol, Mr Elasmar said.

Price comparing apps were effective but only when they were up to date and covered all service stations.

“In its regional market studies, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission found that despite the prevalence of fuel pricing apps and websites, many small, cheaper independent service stations are not covered,” the report said.

“If consumers are unaware of cheaper prices, there is no pressure on nearby retailers to discount prices.”

Governments, local and state, could make it easier to attract competition by making it easier to set up a service station.

“The entry of a new fuel retailer, especially a discounter, into a regional market can lead to lower fuel prices,” the report said.

“However, setting up a new service station can be costly and burdensome due to local planning policies and environmental
standards.”

The report said stakeholders suggested ways to encourage new market entrants such as setting aside land for service stations, removing planning restrictions and providing incentives or subsidies to new independent retailers.