The European Commission said today that antitrust officials raided the offices of oil companies suspected of cartel-like behavior by colluding to manipulate the published price of crude oil, refined oil and biofuels. So-called Price Reporting Agencies such as McGraw Hill subsidiary Platts publish the data, which is used as the benchmark price for trade in oil and other commodities. Norwegian oil giant Statoil confirmed its offices had been searched; the Wall Street Journal identified the other oil companies as BP and Royal Dutch Shell, and said Platts’ offices had also been raided.
“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 in statement. “Any such behavior, if established, may amount to violations of European antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices and abuses of a dominant market position.”
“Furthermore, the Commission has concerns that the companies may have prevented others from participating in the price assessment process, with a view to distorting published prices,” the statement added.
Statoil said in a statement that the investigation was connected to suspected improprieties surrounding Platt’s prices for oil and biofuels, and any illegal behavior may have started as early as 2002.