Competition panel eyes oil retailers for keeping petrol high

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) said on Friday it has "taken note" of alleged 'action in unison' by public sector oil marketing companies for keeping petrol prices high even as international oil prices are on the downslide.

"We have taken a note of it," CCI Chairman Ashok Chawla said in reply to question in this regard from a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India at a programme in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. The accountant had pointed out that the Competition Act also applies to the government-controlled companies.

The three government-owned companies account for virtually all the fuel retailed in the country. They generally revise petrol prices on the 1st and 16th of every month based on the average import cost and foreign exchange rates of the previous fortnight; but they have avoided changing rates in recent reviews.

The Indian basket of Brent crude has been on a downward spiral since the past few weeks and fell to $88 a barrel on Thursday. It recovered a bit on Friday, at around $89.7 a barrel. Crude was trading at around $120 in February-March this year.

The oil companies have not reduced petrol prices yet as imports are getting costlier despite lower prices due to the falling value of the rupee.

The automotive tyre business is another that is under CCI scrutiny for alleged cartelisation.

"The tyre sector we have been looking at. The study on the tyre sector is at a very advanced stage," Chawla told reporters after his address at the Sardar Patel Institute of Public Administration (SPIPA) on 'Competition, economic policy and the common man'.