ECONOMY

BP and Shell reject price fixing claim

British Petroleum (BP) and Shell protested yesterday against the recommendation by the Competition Commission to impose fines totaling more than 107 million euros for price harmonization practices. The Commission argued that the two companies are following a policy of giving pre-agreed discounts to customers, which strongly affects their retail prices, particularly in the country’s regions where BP and Shell enjoy high market shares – Macedonia, Central and Southern Greece. BP officials countered that the charge came from «a misunderstanding and a incorrect interpretation of data» collected by the Commission. They told Kathimerini that BP just found out about the fine, which amounts to 4 percent of each company’s annual sales, from the press. Shell also expressed surprise, saying «we have always been essentially competitive, as proven by our performance in the Greek market to date.» The two companies have been invited to officially submit their views until December 15. Market sources also report that the Commission is currently scrutinizing the country’s two oil refining companies (HELPE and Motor Oil). Separately, the Association of Gasoline Station Retailers yesterday responded to fines imposed on 12 of its members by charging that the responsibility for distributing fuels of old (2004) specifications in January and February lay not with them but with the suppliers. They also claimed that the retailers were charged higher prices of two to four cents per liter for the 2 million liters they were supplied. Federation president Dimitris Makryvelios argued that the distribution of the fuels in question happened because of an informal agreement with the Development Ministry in December 2004 saying no checks would be conducted. The ministry broke this deal, Makryvelios suggested, and imposed very heavy fines on 12 stations. However, HELPE corporate relations director Angelos Stranis countered that the group supplied fuel with the new specification since the fall of 2004 – long before January 1, 2005.