The Austrian Competition Authority, the Bundeswettbewerbsbehorde (BWB), has been conducting a domestic probe into the pricing of petrol by Austrian traders since 2008. The BWB concluded, in an interim report in July 2008, that all petrol stations operating in Austria implemented their price increases at the same time, and decreased their prices within only a few days of each other. The investigated companies claimed that they merely adopt the daily prices published by Platts. Platts is a commodities listing service based in the UK and provides information (including price assessments) in relation to specialised areas such as oil, electricity, nuclear, coal, petrochemical and emissions markets.
The BWB sent a questionnaire to Platts in April 2009 to find out how Platts establish the prices for diesel and petrol in northwest Europe.
Not having received any response from Platts, the BWB announced on 26 June that it will ask the Office of Fair Trading for administrative assistance.
Furthermore, the BWB claims that since it started the public discussion earlier this year, prices at Austrian petrol stations have stopped following Platts' pricing. Oil companies and petrol stations have however continued to implement price increases and decreases simultaneously.
The BWB has therefore asked oil companies to commit themselves to submitting to a 'virtual data room' daily information on how they set end-prices. The submitted information will be analysed by a team of experts. (Oil companies will not have access to their competitors' information.) Whilst the BWB would prefer a voluntary commitment, it is, however, determined to take further legal steps should oil companies refuse to cooperate.