Germany’s competition watchdog has launched an investigation into five major oil companies after complaints alleging they were driving independent filling stations out of business.
Under close examination are Exxon Mobil Corp.‘s Esso, ConocoPhillips’s Jet, Royal Dutch Shell, Total SA, and AralAG which is owned by BP.
The Federal Cartel Office said at the heart of the probe will be a close look at their pricing practices to see if they were unfair.
Five multinational companies supply fuel to roughly two-thirds of the German market. The remaining one third are independent retailers who are obliged to purchase most of their petrol from the five but claim they are paying over the odds.
Charging the independents more or on the other hand selling their own petrol at below cost price at their own service stations are just two alleged practices.
But a spokesperson for one of the multinationals said the companies were acting within the law.
With petrol prices in Germany having reached record highs particularly ahead of the Easter holiday, consumer groups say a debate on whether to curb the main petrol providers’ pricing power is not before time.