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There are growing concerns that some of the world’s largest oil companies have been breaking the rules and manipulating the prices of fuel on the financial markets. This comes following a raid which took place yesterday on the offices of BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Norway’s Statoil by European anti-trust regulators.
Although the billion pound deals which take place around the world to purchase oil and bio fuels are a long way away from the cash we hand over when we fill up at the pump, if the claims are proved to be true, drivers will have been paying more than they should have for fuel, for a considerable amount of years.
Despite the fact that the UK Office for Fair Trading investigated allegations of rip offs at the pump in January, it found that the evidence was not there to support these claims. However, the latest raids on offices in three countries across the continent prove that EU authorities still intend to pursue the potential problem.
Eurpoean Commission officials who made the “unannounced inspections” on Tuesday have emphasised that the raids do not mean that the companies are guilty of any charges but BP, Shell and Statoil as well as the oil pricing agency Platts, have all confirmed they are working with the authorities in their inquiries.
The Commission said “Even small distortions of assessed prices may have a huge impact on the prices of crude oil, refined oil products and biofuels purchases and sales, potentially harming final consumers.”
As part of the investigation, the Commission has revealed that it is examining whether the companies may have prevented others from participating in the pricing process “with a view to distorting published prices”.
It added: “Any such behaviour, if established, may amount to violations of European antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices and abuses of a dominant market position.”
The RAC said that the claims were “worrying news for motorists”, while Tory MP Robert Halfon said drivers were being taken for an “expensive ride”. “The OFT need to look at this again” he added.