PI­RATES HIDE SMALL PRINT

The Weekend Australian - Life - - MOTORING - JOHN CON­NOLLY jc@jcp.com.au

The petrol pi­rates’ pro­pa­ganda peo­ple have been at it again. De­spite all the ev­i­dence they and their al­lies in the mo­tor­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions are still try­ing to ar­gue those of us in driv­ing land are wrong and fuel prices are all kosher. The nor­mally con­ser­va­tive NT News (home to head­lines such as “Horny roo stalks NT women”) said it best: ‘‘Fuel price rort a decade of lies.’’

Our car com­rades up north are pay­ing more for their diesel than any­where else in Aus­tralia and the known uni­verse. Chief Min­is­ter Adam Giles, a man known for un­der­state­ment, said: “I spoke to some fuel com­pa­nies yes­ter­day and ex­pressed my con­cern to them and said we are not go­ing to be in this po­si­tion where ev­ery time the price goug­ing con­tin­ues I have to make a phone call to you blokes to start drop­ping your price.”

Giles went on to say the North­ern Ter­ri­tory could look at pro­duc­ing its own fuel to sup­port res­i­dents and ship­ping and re­source in­dus­tries hit by diesel prices.

In Vic­to­ria “in­dus­try and mo­tor­ing bod­ies” have ex­pressed con­cern that mo­torists are be­ing mis­led by petrol prices shown on servo price boards. That is when you see a huge sign say­ing “6 cents off” and you miss the small print that tells you the dis­count is only avail­able with a shop­pers docket.

Nat­u­rally this sort of switch and bait ad­ver­tis­ing is banned in NSW and South Aus­tralia. But the petrol pi­rates ar­gue that if they had to change the signs the price of petrol would have to go up. “And,” said a spokesman, “we couldn’t find a sin­gle com­plaint on file from a con­fused cus­tomer.”

Hmmm. In 2012, a meet­ing of Aus­tralian and New Zealand con­sumer min­is­ters was told 92 per cent of mo­torists “in­di­cated that they check the price of fuel on the price board be­fore they en­ter a fuel sta­tion”. At the same meet­ing, they were told “a sur­vey of over 800 re­spon­dents in­di­cated that 54 per cent had driven into a ser­vice sta­tion ex­pect­ing a cer­tain price only to dis­cover it was more ex­pen­sive, in­clud­ing where a dis­counted price had been ad­ver­tised”. Of course they wouldn’t com­plain be­cause they know noth­ing would hap­pen.

But af­ter telling us the Aus­tralian Com­pe­ti­tion and Con­sumer Com­mis­sion was happy with their petrol prices, ACCC boss Rod Sims this month ‘‘slammed petrol com­pa­nies for fail­ing to pass on low oil prices to mo­torists’’. Sims told this pa­per that the mar­ket is not work­ing as com­pet­i­tively ‘‘as we would like it to due to lack of ro­bust com­pe­ti­tion. Re­tail­ers’ mar­gins were 6 or 7 cents a litre too high and in­ter­na­tional re­fin­ers’ mar­gins were 20 cents com­pared to the usual 7 cents a litre’’. And Simmsy didn’t men­tion the price of Sin­ga­pore crude or Baltic ex­change rates once. But of course our for­mer friends in the big pri­va­tised mo­tor­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions did as they de­fended the petrol pi­rates.

Nat­u­rally, this is a per­fect segue to Jerry Se­in­feld’s auc­tion of three of his 46 Porsches, which are part of his 100-car col­lec­tion. If I re­mem­ber right, Se­in­feld kept the three pork­ers in his three-storey un­der­ground garage on the Up­per West Side. The star of the YouTube car-porn show Co­me­di­ans in Cars Get­ting Coffee is ex­pect­ing about $14 mil­lion for the fleet when Dave Good­ing auc­tions them in March.

Ev­ery­one is ex­cited about the 1955 550 Spy­der ($8m) but not be­ing a 356 per­son I will be bid­ding on the yel­low 1974 Porsche 911 Car­rera 3.0 RSR race car (pic­tured) once driven by Revlon heir Peter Rev­son ($2.2m). If you weren’t fac­tory-spon­sored but sim­ply a rich gen­tleper­son want­ing to run around Le Mans, the RSR was your only op­tion. Good­ing sold two of th­ese for $1.8 mil­lion last year but you will pay ex­tra for Se­in­feld’s and Rev­son’s own­er­ship.

Cer­tainly, th­ese three are a lit­tle out of the league of Jerry, Eileen and Ge­orge. In Se­in­feld they drove Es­corts, BMWs and the very fa­mous Cadil­lac Coupe de Ville.

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