German regulator launches probe into petrol price fixing by oil majors

The German regulator has launched an investigation to find out whether five major oil companies tried to drive small, independent petrol stations out of business.

The Federal Cartel Office (FCO) said in a statement that it has launched a ''procedure against five petrol companies - Aral, owned by BP Plc, ExxonMobil's Esso, ConocoPhilip's Jet, Royal Dutch Shell and Total S A, on suspicion they tried to obstruct independent filling stations."

The investigation was launched by the FCO following several complaints from independent petrol stations about the pricing practices of the oil companies.

Independent petrol stations, who buy most of their petrol from the five oil companies, account for around one-third of petrol sales in Germany.

The independent petrol station association allege that the five oil majors sell fuel for less than the wholesale price at certain places to drive some of the small independent operators out of business.

A spokesman for the association also alleged that the oil major's charge them more for wholesale petrol than what they charge motorists at their own gas stations.