EU officials investigate companies including BP, Shell, Statoil over possible price-fixing

LONDON – European anti-trust authorities have launched investigations into at least three oil companies on suspicion of price-fixing.

Britain’s BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Norway’s Statoil confirmed they are subject to the inquiry announced Tuesday by the European Union’s executive arm, the Commission.

Statoil said a raid at its headquarters in Stavanger, Norway, was carried out with the assistance of Norwegian antitrust officials. Norway is not a member of the EU. BP and Shell offered no details, but said they were co-operating with authorities.

Platts, which compiles prices for energy markets, said the Commission also visited its London operations on Tuesday. Platts is a division of McGraw Hill Financial.

“Commission officials carried out unannounced inspections at the premises of several companies active in and providing services to the crude oil, refined oil products and biofuels sectors,” the Commission said in a statement Tuesday. It did not identify the companies involved.

The Commission said it had concerns that oil companies “may have colluded in reporting distorted prices.” Such prices are used to determine the market cost of several energy products in Europe and globally.

“Even small distortions of assessed prices may have a huge impact on the prices of crude oil, refined oil products and biofuels purchases and sales, potentially harming final consumers,” the Commission said.

The Commission said it was investigating whether the companies may also have “prevented others from participating in the price assessment process, with a view to distorting published prices.”

EU antitrust officials can make unannounced inspections of a company’s offices as a preliminary step in an investigation. Such probes do not mean the companies are guilty of any wrong-doing, the Commission said.

There is no deadline for the completion of the investigation.