Petrol Price watchers expect prices to jump by as much as 9c a litre tomorrow as thousands of drivers prepare for the long weekend.
The Queensland Office of Fair Trading is said to have issued a warning last night to petrol companies against price gouging in the lead up to the long weekend, with a threat to report them to consumer watchdogs.
Due to a collapse in the weekly discounting cycle, the day to find cheapest petrol has moved from Wednesday to Thursday.
RACQ, Queensland's peak motoring body, said the new cycle had meant prices were at their lowest point on Thursday morning and begin to rise again on Thursday evening, gradually increasing over the weekend until they reached a high on Saturday.
RACQ spokesman Gary Fites said, "About a month ago we had a period of relatively flatline prices at the lower end of the scale."
Mr Fites expects petrol prices to rise by up to 9c a litre over the Easter long weekend, coinciding with the high in the weekly price cycle, and said motorists would get the best prices by filling up today.
The Office of Fair Trading has promised to pass on any complaints they receive from drivers to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, with a spokeswoman saying petrol companies should keep prices fair for Easter drivers.
she said, "The Office of Fair Trading is urging petrol companies to keep prices at the bowser fair during the Easter break."
Motormouth spokesman Sean Rennick said it was increased competition from petrol retailers that had caused the change in the weekly cycle.
Mr Rennick said, "The bottom point of the cycle is basically the threshold at which retailers are prepared to keep their prices low."
Mr Rennick went on to say, "It is basically retailers jockeying in the market trying to get a few more sales at the low point and the restoration of the price cycle gets pushed out because retailers are trying to hold out for longer."
Mr Rennick also said that the result of this meant that fuel was being sold at slightly higher margins whilst at the top of the cycle. He said, "Over the whole of the week a retailer still has to make a reasonable point of return or they can't be in business."
Unleaded petrol price in major cities for Wednesday 31st Mar 2010 (in cents per litre):
BRISBANE - Highest: 136.9; Lowest: 121.9
SYDNEY - Highest: 138.9; Lowest: 118.9
MELBOURNE - Highest: 136.9; Lowest: 119.9