National competition authorities and the European Commission have agreed that Brussels investigators should study the wholesale market in automobile fuel and the weak position of independent suppliers within the EU, as the basis of possible future action that would aim at reducing forecourt prices.

At a meeting in Brussels, competition commissioner Mario Monti and his national counterparts noted: "Where independent operators have a significant presence, (e.g. France, United Kingdom and Germany), motor fuel markets are more competitive than retail markets characterised by vertically integrated suppliers. Therefore, it is important that independent companies have a real possibility to enter the market."

The meeting was staged as part of an EU initiative to combat the rise in fuel prices. It also includes the development of pipelines from Russia, to create alternative oil supplies to those from the Middle East.

Participants backed a move by the Commission’s DG Competition to hold an investigation concerning the "competitive conditions of independent, non-integrated operators in various Member States to learn more of the barriers these companies may face," including the "behaviour of companies or administrative barriers."

National authority representatives agreed to "remain vigilant" regarding the problem. A future meeting in Brussels will agree specific follow-up measures and actions, after the Commission has completed its inquiries.

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