Biofuels, the Antitrust investigates 8 companies for cartel prices

Chicago
By Chicago 5 Min Read

The Antitrust has launched an investigation against Eni, Esso Italiana, Saras, Kuwait Petroleum Italia, Tamoil Italia (which also owns Repsol Italia), Italiana Petroli and Iplom assuming an agreement on the cost of the bio component deriving from the blending obligations, implemented through the publication of information in Staffetta Quotidiana. This was announced by Staffetta itself, revealing that the Authority has carried out inspections in its headquarters and in those of the oil companies to ascertain the existence of violations of article 101 of the EU Treaty which regulates commercial practices that prevent, restrict or distort competition.

The investigation started by the “Whistleblowing” platform

The investigation, Staffetta reconstructs, started from a report received by the Antitrust on March 27, 2023 through the Authority’s Whistleblowing platform. After various interlocutions with the whistleblower, the last of which dated 5 April 2023, “it was possible to reconstruct the conduct reported, consisting, according to the complainant, in an agreement concerning the cost component deriving from the obligations to mix biofuel in automotive fuel (“bio component”), which would be reversed at the same price to all market operators regardless of the cost actually incurred by each oil company. According to the whistleblower – reads the resolution to initiate the investigation – the practice would have occurred constantly in recent years and would have been carried out through a system of public announcements by the oil companies that took place in “La Staffetta Quotidiana”, started by Eni in January 2020″.

The minimum amount of biofuels

The Antitrust hypothesizes “coordination between the parties in order to limit mutual competitive confrontation and to fix in a coordinated way an important component of the price of automotive fuel represented by the cost of the bio component connected to legal obligations which, to date, provide for a minimum quantity equal to 10% of the total fuel released for consumption”. The agreement, according to the preliminary investigation, “could date back to at least January 1, 2020, the date of the second article published in the Staffetta Quotidiana, which gives an account of an increase in the organic component by Eni and expressly cites this company as the source of the information”.

Antitrust charges

The increase in question, writes the Antitrust again, “is much higher than the increase deriving from the increase in the mandatory quota (which went from 8% to 9% from 1 January 2020)”. According to the Authority “the article of January 2020 would appear to report an announcement of a price increase by Eni which kicks off the hypothesized agreement: Eni, through the Staffetta Quotidiana, seems, in fact, to send a message to its competitors inviting them to make increases “in line” with its own”. So much so that, it continues, “on the basis of the available data, it was possible to ascertain a parallelism in the implementation of the increases by” the other companies, as well as “a very similar value of the organic component (in most cases completely identical) over the last few years”.
Finally, given that the obligation to release biofuels for consumption refers to a “minimum quantity”, the Authority does not exclude “that the coordination may have also involved the quantity of biofuels to be released for consumption which seems to be equal to the minimum quantity required by law for all”.

Relay: we independent newspaper

«Staffetta Quotidiana – declared the publisher Giovanni Goffredo Borromeo – reiterates the correctness and professionalism of its work, in carrying out its mission as an independent and specialized newspaper with over 90 years of experience. All the information in question is published and responds to a precise journalistic interest.

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