ACCC takes on Informed Sources
On 19 August 2014 the ACCC instituted proceedings against Informed Sources and several petrol retailers (BP, Caltex, Eureka (t/a Coles Express), Woolworths and 7-Eleven) alleging they contravened s 45 of the Act by entering into arrangements involving communication about prices which had the 'effect or likely effect of substantially lessening competition in markets for the sale of petrol in Melbourne'.
The matter was scheduled to be heard before Justice Murphy from Feb-March 2016.
However, in December 2015 the ACCC announced that proceedings had been discontinued against Informed Sources after Informed Sources and the retailers agreed to make pricing information available to consumers at the same time the retailers receive it.
See ACCC media release relating to discontinuation of proceedings
Proceedings discontinued against Coles Express
On 15 December 2015 the ACCC resolved Federal Court proceedings against Eureka Operations Pty Ltd (trading as Coles Express). Coles Express will terminate its subscription to Informed Sources after the current subscription period (ending April 2016) and has provided the ACCC with court enforceable undertakings in which it commits not to enter into similar price information sharing service agreements and not to give effect to such arrangements following termination of its agreement with Informed Sources. The Court (Justice Murphy) ordered discontinuation of proceedings against the fifth respondent (Coles Express), noting the undertaking Coles Express had agreed to give the ACCC pursuant to s 87B of the Act.
Commentary in The Conversation
Caron Beaton-Wells and David Byrne, 'Fixing the fixers of petrol prices is no easy task' (The Conversation, 27 August 2014)
Mobil swears off Informed Sources
Mobil Oil has pledged entered into an enforceable undertaking with the ACCC not to subscribe to Informed Sources (or any other similar service) for the next five years. Informed Sources has noted that Mobil does not currently retail petrol in Australia and has no stated objective to do so; Mobil has not subscribed to Informed Sources since 2010 when it sold its retailing assets in Australia (7-Eleven currently runs Mobil branded stores - they are not operated by Mobil). The undertaking states, in part:
"While Mobil Oil Australia does not accept that its previous subscription, or the subscription of others, to the Oil PriceWatch service had any adverse effect on competition in any relevant market in Australia, Mobil Oil Australia has voluntarily and without admission offered to provide this Undertaking to address the concerns raised by the ACCC."
Source: 'Mobil swears off petrol information service Informed Sources as ACCC Federal Court action looms' (news.com.au 26 August 2014) and ACCC press release.
There has been plenty of media on the ACCC's action against Informed Sources. See, for example, Lucille Keen, 'ACCC sues petrol retailers, Informed Sources' (Financial Review, 20 August 2014), Ben Butler, 'ACCC takes action on petrol pricing' (Sydney Morning Herald, 21 August 2014), Annabel Hepworth, 'Petrol giants face legal test on prices' (The Australian, 21 August 2014) ACCC takes BP, Caltex, Woolworths, Coles Express, 7-Eleven and Informed Sources to Federal Court' (news.com.au, 20 August 2014), Michael Janda, 'ACCC launches legal action against Informed Sources and retailers over alleged petrol price sharing' (ABC News, 21 August 2014) and Simon Thomsen, 'Competition Watchdog Takes Fuel Big Boys To Court Over Alleged Price Fixing' (20 August 2014).
Several press releases have also been issued by the respondents to the ACCC proceedings: see, for example, Informed Sources, 'The ACCC action against Informed Sources is unjustified' (Media release, 20 August 2014), Woolworths Ltd, 'ACCC and Informed Sources' (20 August 2014) and Caltex, 'Caltex response to ACCC proceedings on fuel price data' (20 August 2014)
On the discontinuation
- Eli Greenblat, 'Woolworths able to keep using cheap fuel app and website after ACCC decision' (The Australian, 23 December 2015)
- Michael Janda, 'Petrol price info live for motorists under deal between ACCC, retailers and Informed Sources' (ABC News, 24 December 2015)
- Broede Carmody, 'ACCC drops proceedings against petrol retailers for using price comparison site Informed Solutions' (Smart Company, 4 January 2016).
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