U.K. Regulators Consider Criminal Probe Into Oil-Price Fixing

The U.K. antitrust regulator is considering a criminal probe into oil-price manipulation as European Union officials conduct a civil investigation.

The Office of Fair Trading is liaising with U.K. agencies including the Serious Fraud Office and Financial Conduct Authority “to establish whether there is sufficient available evidence to warrant a criminal investigation, and if so who is best placed to take action,” it said in a statement today. Prosecutors at the SFO said in May that they were “urgently reviewing,” whether to start a criminal inquiry.

Antitrust officials from the European Commission raided Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA), BP Plc, Statoil ASA (STL) and Platts, an energy news and price publisher, in May to investigate allegations of price manipulation and collusion by traders in crude, refined-product and biofuels markets.

The OFT’s statement was in response to a petition by campaigners today calling for an investigation by the U.K.

“What we want is a full 18-month to two-year inquiry to find out what’s going on, why motorists are being ripped off,” Robert Halfon, a U.K. lawmaker, said today in London outside the OFT offices.

Halfon and FairFuelUK, a campaign group, delivered the petition with more than 30,000 signatures to the OFT today, calling for a parliamentary review of oil pricing. The regulator hadn’t seen any “credible evidence” of speculation or price manipulation after a study of gasoline and diesel markets, it said in January.

“Consumers are furious, resentful, bitter and angry,” Quentin Willson, a spokesman for FairfuelUK, said in an interview. “Their ire is focused at the government. And they, like us, are surprised that nothing has been done.”

Platts is a unit of New York-based McGraw Hill Financial Inc. (MHFI) Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, competes with Platts and other companies in providing energy-markets news and information.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lananh Nguyen in London at lnguyen35@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Voss at sev@bloomberg.net

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