Germany probes large oil firms

Germany probes large oil firms

FRANKFURT - Agence France-Presse
Germany probes large oil firms

Fuel nozzles are seen at a gas station in Berlin on April 3. Germany’s competition board is probing large oil firms. REUTERS photo

Germany’s competition watchdog said yesterday it had launched a probe against five major petrol-station groups -BP/Aral, Esso, Jet, Shell and Total- into alleged price-fixing.

Confirming a corresponding report in the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the federal cartel office said it is investigating reports the five companies systematically sold petrol below the purchasing price at a number of petrol stations in order to drive independent filling stations out of business.

The groups are also alleged to have billed independent operators for wholesale petrol at higher prices than those charged to motorists at their own stations, the newspaper said.

The investigation will “help strengthen competition from independent service stations against this oligopoly,” anti-trust office head Andreas Mundt told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

“It’s a signal to the five giants that we take these accusations seriously,” Mundt said.

Independently operated petrol stations account for around one third of the German market, but they, too, purchase most of their petrol from the five main groups.

“It’s a continuous process, but it’s not easy because prices fluctuate constantly,” a spokesman said.