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.