EU investigates alleged fuel price fixing
European anti-trust regulators raided the offices of BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Norway's Statoil yesterday (Tuesday 14th May) due to concerns that ‘the companies may have colluded in reporting distorted prices’.
The European Commission added that the firms 'may have prevented others from participating in the price assessment process, with a view to distorting published prices'.
In a statement, BP said: 'We are cooperating fully with the investigation and are unable to comment further at this time.'
A Shell spokesman said: 'We can confirm that Shell companies are currently assisting the European Commission in an inquiry into trading activities.'
The news follows analysis earlier this year by the Office of Fair Trading, which concluded that rising fuel prices for the last 10 years have not been caused by manipulation of prices by oil companies and retailers but are the result of higher crude oil prices and increases in tax and duty.
In response to the latest news, RAC technical director, David Bizley, said the allegations were 'worrying news for motorists' who are already suffering due to the high cost of keeping a vehicle, adding: 'The Office of Fair Trading inquiry concluded at the end of January that the UK fuel market was operating fairly and not against the best interests of motorists, and therefore that a Competition Commission investigation was not needed.
'Motorists will be very interested to see what comes of these raids. Whatever happens the RAC will continue to campaign for greater transparency in the UK fuel market and for a further reduction in fuel duty to stimulate economic growth.'
Brian Madderson, chairman of the Petrol Retailers’ Association, added: ‘The UK's competition authority rejected industry calls from the PRA, supported by Robert Halfon MP and his cross-party group of backbenchers, to examine oil price and wholesale cost movements.
‘Earlier this year the PRA drew attention to the 8pence per litre (ppl) increase in wholesale cost of petrol from end December to late February which could not be explained by new geo-political issues or other economic factors.
‘More recently, our independent petrol retailers have seen wholesale costs move by over 5.2ppl in less than seven days.
‘Such volatility has been a relatively new and unwelcome market phenomenon which cannot be explained to confused and irate customers on our forecourts.
‘Independent retailers hope this Europe led investigation will help to provide the proper price transparency that consumers and businesses deserve and need.’