VACC welcomed yesterday’s comments from Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Chairman, Rod Sims, after he voiced concerns about shopper dockets in the retail fuel industry. Mr Sims said that ‘if Coles and Woolworths wish to offer their customers a discount, it should be off supermarket products’. For many years, VACC has warned against the shopper docket discount scheme and reported that supermarket domination of the retail fuel industry is killing off independent service stations.

VACC, on behalf of its 5,300 small business members, and Service Station and Convenience Store Division members in particular, has welcomed criticism by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Chairman, Rod Sim, of Coles and Woolworths’ retail fuel shopper docket discount schemes.

‘While large shopper docket discounts provide short term benefits to some consumers, the likely harm to other fuel retailers, and therefore to competition and the competitive process for petrol retailing could well be substantial, ’ Mr Sims said yesterday.

“VACC has been warning of this for years,” VACC Executive Director, David Purchase, said.

“Independent service stations have declined in number in droves and if shopper docket discounts are not stopped there will be no independent fuel retailers left, no effective competition and fuel prices will skyrocket. It’s not rocket science, yet it’s been happening right under our noses.

“Shopper docket discounts are a farce. Consumers are let to believe they are getting a bargain. In fact, shopper dockets are a con because the discounted fuel is funded by higher grocery prices. The last time I looked, Coles and Woolworths were not registered as charitable institutions and I cannot see them giving us something for nothing.

“Mr Sims comments, along with recent criticism of Coles and Woolworths by Metcash, Chief Executive, Ian Morrice, feel like a turning point in the debate over shopper docket discounts and market domination by Coles and Woolworths in the retail fuel industry. The penny has finally dropped.

“Now we need the Federal Government to intervene and protect consumers and small business independent service stations. In addition, the ACCC must be given more powers. Mr Sims has authority to investigate and report, but not take effective action. We all know what’s going on and the time has come to do something about it,” Mr Purchase said.