The ACCC says petrol prices have already peaked for the year in most Australian capital cities, and its analysis of the pricing cycles show costs should fall just before Christmas.
"Sales of petrol across Australia are at their highest in the latter half of December, so the fact that prices should be decreasing, albeit from high levels, during a period of high demand will be some comfort to motorists," ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said. "We will be watching closely, as part of our monitoring role, to see that this occurs and will report accordingly."
Mr Sims said it is important to note that as prices fall, the petrol retailers will move prices at different times, so it will pay to shop around. The ACCC advises keeping an eye on petrol price movements, and using a fuel price app to help you decide when and where to buy petrol.
ACCC analysis of petrol sales throughout the year indicates that demand for petrol is higher in the weeks leading up to Christmas but falls significantly afterwards. Demand picks up again in late January.
The ACCC is monitoring petrol prices across Australia, and particularly the petrol price cycles that occur in the larger capital cities.
"Petrol prices peaked in Sydney, Adelaide, and Brisbane in recent weeks and there should not be a petrol price cycle increase in those cities again before Christmas. Prices have been decreasing slowly in Melbourne and we expect them to continue falling. In Perth prices cycles are extremely regular lasting seven days, and we expect that prices will go up Tuesday as usual and be at their cheapest on Monday," Mr Sims said.
Since the beginning of 2016 a number of fuel price apps have been introduced which provide greater transparency in the petrol market. These include apps from MotorMouth, FuelCheck, NRMA, 7-Eleven, and GasBuddy. These join existing apps, such as those from Woolworths, and United.
"With the exception of Perth, petrol price cycles no longer consist of a weekly price peak and a trough. This can make it difficult for motorists to wait for lower prices before buying petrol. However, by using new pricing apps to shop at petrol retailers that discount, consumers can shop around to find the best deal. This can have a flow-on effect by putting pressure on other retailers to lower prices in their local petrol market," Mr Sims said.
ACCC analysis shows that petrol price cycles in the eastern capital cities can be quite variable and in past months have ranged from a length of between one to seven weeks. In contrast, in Perth the length of petrol price cycles are regularly seven days, with prices peaking on a Tuesday and being at their lowest on a Monday.
"We expect this slow decrease to continue in coming weeks," ACCC says. "If prices did increase before Christmas, we would expect the increase to not be large".