US FTC to issue interim gasoline price report Friday

The US Federal Trade Commission plans to issue a preliminary report to Congress Friday regarding high gasoline prices last month in the Chicago and Milwaukee areas. Richard Parker, head of the FTC's price-fixing investigation, briefed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee about the inquiry during a July 13 hearing.

Jul 25th, 2000


Washington, DC�The US Federal Trade Commission plans to issue a preliminary report to Congress Friday regarding high gasoline prices last month in the Chicago and Milwaukee areas.

Prices topped $2/gal for several weeks. Oil companies blamed the price spike on higher crude oil prices and refining and transportation problems.

Richard Parker, head of the FTC's price-fixing investigation, briefed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee about the inquiry during a July 13 hearing.

He warned the senators the interim report won't be definitive and said, "I don't want to hold out too much expectation as to conclusions." The investigation won't be completed for another 6 months.

Parker said, "Chicago, Milwaukee, and other places, principally in the Midwest, have suffered particularly severe recent price increases that cannot be explained solely" by crude oil price increases.

He said, "We do not regulate or attempt to determine the reasonableness of energy prices. Instead, we investigate whether or not specific anticompetitive and unlawful conduct has occurred that interferes with the operation of the free market.

"Thus, our investigation will not determine whether prices are too high or too low but only whether there is reason to believe that the antitrust laws have been broken."

Parker said FTC had issued subpoenas to operators of refineries, pipelines, terminals, and blending plants in the Midwest.

"Our staff also has begun conducting interviews with market participants, consumers, corporate users of gasoline, and others with potential knowledge of relevant facts. The objective is to determine who raised prices, and whether there was any illegal contact, communication, or signaling among competitors before or during the time of the price increases."

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