Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Russian oil companies to pay fines for forcing up gasoline prices

Russian oil companies will not only have to pay fines for breaking antitrust laws by forcing up gasoline prices, but will also have to lower these prices, a Russian respected daily said on Wednesday.

Kommersant said that the total sum of fines for four Russian major oil companies was estimated by the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service (FAS) at around $1 billion.

On Tuesday, the presidium of the Higher Arbitration Tribunal held its first hearing on fines for oil companies over the issue.

The antitrust service has found four Russian oil companies, Rosneft, Gazprom Neft, LUKoil and TNK BP, which together dominate the market, to be in breach of antitrust legislation.

TNK BP representative Natalya Apolosova called for the presidium to hear the case not from a consumer standpoint but from the standpoint of law, stressing that "the decision will be a guide for other courts."

The head of the Anti-Monopoly Service, Igor Artemyev, said that prices for petroleum products should not only cease to grow, but also should fall. Currently, according to the FAS, they are overpriced by 15-20%.

He stressed the fines are to be paid out of the oil companies' profits and will not be passed on to the consumer.

In February 2009, the service accused the four companies of unjustifiably raising wholesale prices for petroleum products in late 2008-early 2009, and imposed fines on them ranging from 1.1 billion rubles ($35 million) to 1.5 billion rubles ($48 million).

MOSCOW, May 26 (RIA Novosti)

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