By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, Jan. 19 -- The US Federal Trade Commission is monitoring the price effects of past oil company mergers and consolidation in the petroleum industry, said FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras.
On Jan. 14, panels of economists attended an FTC conference in Washington, DC, to evaluate studies of the industry. In a May 2004 report, the Government Accountability Office said oil company mergers since the 1990s had caused a slight rise in wholesale gasoline prices.
Majoras said the FTC has devoted substantial resources to scrutinizing market activity in the oil and natural gas industry.
"I am committed to continuing the commission's vigilance in this critical market sector," she said. "We will apply careful antitrust scrutiny to market behavior, including mergers, and will not hesitate to bring enforcement actions as needed."
The FTC reviews mergers, considers refinery closings, watches for potentially anticompetitive acts, and reviews gasoline price anomalies detected by the agency's monitoring project, she said.
"Changes in the price and availability of gasoline directly affect consumers. Indeed, there may be no other product for which consumers are so acutely aware of price fluctuations, as ubiquitous retail stations loudly announced the current price on large signs visible to all who drive by," she noted.
The FTC has established an oil and gasoline web page to disseminate information about market conditions and FTC actions, she said. It is http://www.ftc.gov/ftc/oilgas/index.html.