Australia's Competition Watchdog Probes Gasoline Prices
05/03/2012| 07:14pm US/Eastern
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said Friday it has started a formal investigation into the sharing of price information by gasoline retailers.
The ACCC said it had concerns that such arrangements may breach the law.
"The ACCC has put the industry on notice for some time about its concerns in this area," ACCC commissioner Joe Dimasi said in a statement.
Current arrangements allow for the private and frequent exchange of price information between the major petrol retailers. The ACCC is concerned this allows them to signal price movements to each other, monitor competitor responses and react to them, the agency said.
The Competition and Consumer Act 2010 prohibits contracts, arrangements or understandings that may substantially lessen competition. Australian gasoline retailers include Caltex Australia Ltd. (>> Caltex Australia Limited) as well as local units of Royal Dutch Shell PLC's (>> ROYAL DUTCH SHELL PLC-B) and BP PLC (BP, BP.LN).
"The ACCC has now commenced a formal investigation into this matter, and a dedicated investigation team has been assigned," ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in the statement.
The ACCC doesn't usually comment on its ongoing investigations, but said it considered it appropriate to do so on this occasion because of the significant public interest in gasoline pricing, he added.
The ACCC anticipates the investigation may be lengthy, and said it doesn't intend to make any public comments on its progress, Sims said.
By Ray Brindal, Dow Jones Newswires; 612 62080902; firstname.lastname@example.org