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Mike Hosking: Petrol companies aren't ripping us off

Author
Mike Hosking ,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Thursday, 11 October 2018, 10:46a.m.
Petrol companies are not ripping us off or rorting us or fleecing us. Photo / Getty Images
Petrol companies are not ripping us off or rorting us or fleecing us. Photo / Getty Images

COMMENT

When the Prime Minister tells us that we are being fleeced by the petrol companies, you are seeing a very deliberate move by a calculating politician.

That is in contrast to the talk of kindness and waving of babies that we saw for example in New York.

That is in contrast to the broad smiles and kind words we hear at the prime ministerial drop-ins to various schools around the country where she receives blankets for the aforementioned child.

None of this is bad, but it is a reminder that she is as much politician as she is new age kumbaya cheerleader.

Her go at the price of petrol is raw politics and easy point-scoring.

Not that many will disagree with her, and that is part of the plan. In siding with us, she sides with most of us, she picks an easy target, the big ugly faceless corporates that deal in those horrible fossil fuels, so not only are they destroying the planet, they are ripping us off along the way.

But, the question remains, as it did when Judith Collins pulled out the same trick at the tail end of the National government - having fired the salvo, having laid down the accusation, what now?

Judith, of course, launched an inquiry (very Labour) and it came up with next to nothing.

The market wasn't working all that well, but then there wasn't actually a lot you could put your finger on, so that was that, as indeed it was always going to be.

Petrol companies are not ripping us off or rorting us or fleecing us. Petrol companies are operating the way most competitive businesses operate.

They charge what the market will bear for their product.

That market varies depending on where you are, how many players are in that market, how far from the production of the product you are.

It also takes into account specials and deals and discounts.

In other words it a highly variable set of circumstances that varies widely on any given day in any given location in any given city or indeed in any given neighbourhood.

There are apps that tell you where to buy, where to save, where the deals are.

There are endless competitions and incentive programmes for you to save if you want to.

And that is part of the problem in taking a very broad-based overarching view of an entire marketplace and averaging it out and suggesting we are being fleeced.

Not unlike the bag of sugar you bought. Did you buy it from the dairy, the superette or Countdown?

Was it on special? Was another brand on special? Did you buy in bulk? Was it a loss-leader? Was it at the end of the aisle?

Did you get fleeced or did you pay what you thought you might pay?

Your con is another man's convenience.

And that is the problem the Prime Minister has bought into when she lays her charge.

Her answer is the Commerce Commission. If and when they ever get the powers the Government keep banging on about, just what is it they're going to do? Launch a fleece hunt? What is being fleeced, what is rorting and who decides?

If they can do it for petrol, what else is in line? Are we being ripped off on cars, or outdoor furniture, or toilet paper?

Of course this looks a bit like a defence of big oil which it isn't.

I've got a 5 litre super-charged engine, I put 98 in, it costs $200 to fill, no one hates filling up more than me.

But, is this a scam? No it is not.

This is business doing business with a huge variety of variables, not least of which is the amount of tax the Government is rorting us on. You want an inquiry? Launch one into that.

Meantime all we are really dealing with is having to pay for an essential at more than we have previously, and we don't like it.

But not liking something is not being fleeced.

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