Three oil companies and the oil market information company Platts were raided yesterday by investigators for the European Commission looking into allegations of price fixing.
In the UK, Shell confirmed it was “currently assisting the European Commission in an enquiry into trading activities”, while BP said it was subject to an inspection by the EC. Both said they were cooperating fully, but declined to give any further information.
In Norway, Statoil said its office in Stavanger was subject to an inspection visit by the EFTA (European Free Trade Association) Surveillance Authority (ESA), assisted by the Norwegian Competition Authority (Konkurransetilsynet).
Its statement added: “The inspection was carried out on request of the European Commission. Statoil is cooperating with the authorities in their inspection.
“The authorities suspect participation by several companies, including Statoil, in anti-competitive agreements and/or concerted practices contrary to Article 53 of the EEA (European Economic Area) Agreement. In addition the inspection relates to potential abuse of possible dominant position by another party, contrary to Article 54 of the EEA Agreement.
“The suspected violations are related to the Platts’ Market-On-Close (MOC) price assessment process, used to report prices in particular for crude oil, refined oil products and biofuels, and may have been on-going since 2002.”
The price reporting agency (PRA) Platts confirmed the European Commission had undertaken a review at its premises in London in relation to the Platts price assessment process. It said it was cooperating fully with the European Commission’s review.
However another PRA operating in the oil sector, Argus Media, commented: “Argus Media would like to confirm that it has received no recent enquiries from European regulators about its oil price reporting.
“Argus does not operate a market on close electronic window to receive bids and offer information about oil prices. Further information about Argus’ approach to oil price reporting can be obtained from its website: www.argusmedia.com/methodology.
“Argus strongly supports full transparency in commodity markets and continues to encourage full reporting of information from market sources to its journalists.”
ExxonMobil and Valero both said they had not been included in the unannounced inspections.