Early this month, petrol retailers in Singapore raised pump prices by three cents a litre (S'pore pump prices at record highs after killing, Jan 8).
The reason cited was the killing of Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani on Jan 3. Crude oil prices were expected to rise, given the uncertainty over how Iran will respond to the killing.
This smacks of opportunism. Pump prices had already gone up by three cents a litre just before Christmas. Compared with 18 months ago, pump prices have climbed seven cents.
Straits Times senior transport correspondent Christopher Tan once explained that "petrol (a refined product) does not always move in tandem with the crude product" (askST: Why are petrol pump prices high when crude oil prices have dipped below US$30 a barrel?, ST Online, Jan 19, 2016). So why was there a need for petrol retailers to raise prices again so quickly?
Meanwhile, the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) launched an online pump price comparison website on Monday, allowing users to compare actual spending across brands (Check with Fuel Kaki to find the cheapest petrol, Jan 14). Case said that while pump prices are generally transparent, the effective prices that motorists eventually pay could differ widely because of various card-based or loyalty-linked promotions.
Case said its website is supported by the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore.
In my opinion, the focus of both agencies has been misplaced.
First, petrol retailers should not be allowed to seize world events as an excuse to raise prices in tandem.
Second, petrol retailers should not be allowed to befuddle consumers with marketing gimmicks on the effective retail petrol prices.
Third, both Case and consumers should not have to resort to apps to decipher a situation which should not be allowed in the first place.
I look forward to the day when I can just pump petrol, scan a QR code to make payment and then drive off.
Liu Fook Thim