The President of the Romanian Competition Council (“RCC”), Mr. Bogdan Chiritoiu, recently stated that the RCC is considering the possibility of limiting prices of fuel, amidst recent news from the Government on discussions to eliminate certain excise duties on fuel.
Mr. Chiritoiu stated that the RCC will consult with the Ministry of Finance on this issue. According to the RCC President, it is only right that the reduction in taxes should be reflected in the prices paid by the ultimate consumers. Mr. Chiritoiu’s statements come amidst the RCC’s sectoral investigation into the fuel market, which the RCC is expected to finalise early next year. In early 2017, the RCC launched an investigation into the fuel market, after determining that fuel prices (excluding tax) in the Romanian market had slightly exceeded the EU average. Traditionally, Romanian fuel prices sat below the European average – the RCC is keen to identify the root causes of this change, and determine whether it was a result of anti-competitive conduct in this market.
Price limitations have in the past been imposed by the RCC (e.g. for mandatory third party liability motor vehicle insurance). Under Romanian competition law, they are compatible with competition rules when designed to protect markets or industries where competition is excluded or substantially restricted, provided that the limitation is temporary (generally, 3 years with the possibility of extension on a yearly basis).
This recent announcement reinforces the conclusion that the fuel market remains high on the RCC’s list of priorities and is subject to strict scrutiny from a competition law perspective.