UK oil majors cleared of 'anti-competitive behavior'

LONDON�The UK Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has rejected claims first made by a number of independent fuel retailers in September that major oil companies were selling wholesale fuel to them at prices higher than at their own branded service stations.

Following an inquiry into allegations of anti-competitive behavior by UK oil giants, the OFT concluded that a combination of high crude prices and "public pressure on UK retail prices" were to blame for a squeeze on retailers' margins.

There was "no evidence of either price fixing agreements or abuse of a dominant position by the oil companies," the OFT said.

The OFT acknowledged that "all" retailers were suffering a squeeze on margins because the "unusual combination of circumstances" current affecting the market.

"I sympathize with the problems the independent retailers have been encountering," stated Director General of Fair Trading John Vickers. "They have had to pay wholesale prices which have reflected the increased world oil pressure, while public pressure has held down prices at the pump."

"We have investigated whether this has resulted from anti-competitive behavior by the major oil companies and have concluded that it has not," said Vickers.

"The OFT will continue to monitor this market very closely and will not hesitate to take action if we find that firms in the industry are deliberately damaging competition," he added.

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