PETROL re­tail­ers are goug­ing Mel­bourne driv­ers up to $120 a year, new data from the na­tion’s top con­sumer pro­tec­tion agency re­veals.

But a rapidly in­creas­ing num­ber of mo­torists neu­tralise this, and then some, by us­ing apps that show both when and where prices are low­est in their lo­cal area.

Fig­ures ob­tained by the Her­ald Sun from the Aus­tralian Com­pe­ti­tion and Con­sumer Com­mis­sion show that in the year to the end of March, the aver­age fuel re­tail mar­gin in Mel­bourne was 12 cents per litre.

How­ever, the aver­age price over the past 15 years was only 7.8c/L. That fac­tors in price in­fla­tion dur­ing that time.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims said that to be fair to re­tail­ers, 1c/L should be shaved off the gap be­tween the re­cent mar­gin and the long-run aver­age be­cause they are facing le­git­i­mate ad­di­tional reg­u­la­tory and com­pli­ance costs. These in­clude adding vapour re­cov­ery tech­nol­ogy to bowsers, al­ter­ing the range of fu­els sold to com­ply with state gov­ern­ment man­dates.

But even af­ter mak­ing such an al­lowance, the owner of a Toy­ota Kluger who fills up once a week is be­ing dud­ded to the tune of $2.30 a tank.

Mr Sims said the size of re­tail­ers’ mar­gins could not be jus­ti­fied on the in­for­ma­tion avail­able to the ACCC.

In its lat­est quar­terly re­port, the ACCC finds re­tailer mar­gins in Mel­bourne and Perth are the high­est on record and con­tinue to be el­e­vated in ma­jor cities.

There was a way to fight back though, Mr Sims said.

Phone apps were now re­veal­ing when was a good time to buy in the petrol price cy­cle.

They also showed which sta­tions were of­fer­ing the low­est prices in a given area.

“We urge mo­torists to buy at the best times and at the best places,” Mr Sims said.

It was pos­si­ble to save as much as $15 per tank, he said.

It’s a mes­sage that more and more mo­torists are heed­ing.

In the fi­nal three months of 2015, the ma­jor petrol price apps had about four mil­lion hits. In the same period of 2016 they had 20 mil­lion.

For those un­com­fort­able with apps, Mr Sims said: “If you just watch the trends on our web­site, or your lo­cal mo­tor­ing as­so­ci­a­tion web­site, you can save your­self a lot of money.”

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