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Spain’s Competition Regulator Probes Oil Firms on Fuel Prices

Spain’s Competition Regulator may fine oil companies as much as 10 percent of sales if they are deemed guilty of conspiring to inflate fuel prices.

The move comes a day after the European Union’s antitrust chief said oil-price manipulation by companies such as Royal Dutch Shell Plc, BP Plc and Statoil ASA may have wrought “huge” damage to consumers through possible collusion by traders. The EU raided the offices of three oil companies this month to investigate collusion.

Spain’s energy regulator, or the CNE, announced an investigation of the so-called “Monday effect” earlier this year, in which fuel prices consistently fall on Mondays, the day the European Commission uses as reference for Spanish fuel prices, and rise without justification on Tuesdays, the energy regulator said in a report.

The competition regulator inspected oil firms on May 27 and May 28, it said in a statement. An unjustified increase in fuel prices would be considered a “severe infraction” and companies could be fined as much as 10 percent of sales of annual sales prior to the fine, it said. A spokeswoman for the regulator refused to name the companies involved in the probe, as the investigation is ongoing.

Cia. Espanola de Petroleos SA, or Cepsa, which runs about 1,700 service stations in Spain, wasn’t one of the companies inspected, a company official said.

No one was immediately available to comment at Lisbon-based Galp Energia SGPS SA. A spokesman for Repsol SA declined to comment.

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