Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods says leaked emails appearing to show BP managers purposefully hiking prices north of Wellington to persuade cheaper rivals to follow suit are "concerning".
Leaked emails, obtained by Stuff, show the lengths BP managers are going to in an effort to hike petrol prices across Levin, Kapiti and Paraparaumu.
In response to a rival's significantly lower petrol price in Levin, rather than lower their price in nearby Otaki by up to 20 cents a litre, BP managers instead agreed to hike prices at all their BPs in the area, expecting their rivals to follow suit.
"Rather than just reducing the price in Otaki we will be looking to increase the price at Paraparaumu & Kapiti and also Levin," BP pricing manager Suzanne Lucas wrote.
"We have already increased all three sites mentioned by 5cpl [cents per litre] and have found that the Z [Energy station] in Paraparaumu has already matched our pricing.
"Over the next couple of weeks we will continue to try a number of tactics in the hope of reducing the pricing gap between Otaki and its surrounding regions."
Responding to the leaked emails in Stuff, Energy and Resources Minister Woods said in a statement: "This email is concerning."
"It's important that Kiwis know they are getting a fair deal at the pump and it's alarming to see evidence that isn't always the case.
"A recent MBIE report showed that some Kiwis in different parts of the country did appear to be paying over the odds for their petrol.
"That's why this Government is changing the law to allow the Commerce Commission to conduct market studies, compel the release of evidence and get to the bottom of this issue.
"I'll be meeting personally with BP to discuss my concerns."
BP responded late this morning, defending their actions.
"Petrol prices in New Zealand are highly competitive and we adjust our prices in response to local competition, particularly in instances where discounting has become unsustainable, which is what occurred in the lower North Island last year," BP said in a statement.
"We believe competition on price will remain a key characteristic of the New Zealand fuel market in the coming years.
"Because the New Zealand fuel market is already highly competitive we actively manage our prices on a daily basis to remain competitive, as well as provide the best possible customer service offering.
"We currently have more than NZ$1billion worth of capital invested in New Zealand, with further investment an ongoing priority.
"Our investment decisions are made with the goal of supporting growth at both a national level and in regional areas across the country.
"We know our customers have a choice so while we may not always be the cheapest in the market our objective is to ensure our total site offer is the best possible."