Two of Britain’s biggest oil companies British Petroleum (BP) and Royal Dutch Shell have been raided by European regulators over allegations of manipulating the oil price since 2002.
According to the reports, officers from the European Commission’s competition authority searched the London headquarters of the two companies for possible evidence of price manipulation.
BP and Shell are suspected of oil price rigging since 2002. Over more than ten years, the price of a litre of petrol has risen dramatically by more than 80 percent to about £1.35 a litre.
“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.” the European Commission said.
Lord Oakeshott, former Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman, said the alleged rigging of oil prices was "as serious as rigging Libor" – which led to banks being fined hundreds of millions of pounds.
He demanded to know why the UK authorities had not taken action earlier and said he would ask questions of the British regulator in Parliament. "Why have we had to wait for Brussels to find out if British oil giants are ripping off British consumers?" he said. "The price of energy ripples right through our economy and really matters to every business and families."
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.
"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."
Four months ago the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) ruled out an investigation into petrol price fixing after finding "very limited evidence" that pump prices rise quickly when the wholesale price goes up but fall more slowly when it drops.
The European Commission described today’s raid as “a preliminary step to investigate suspected anti-competitive practices”. Offices owned by price-reporting agency Platts, and Norwegian oil Company Statoil were also raided as part of the commission’s investigation.