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SOFIA Oct 13 Bulgaria's anti-monopoly
commission has "convincing evidence" that six oil companies
operating in the Balkan country's retail fuel market were
involved in cartel agreements on fuel prices, the watchdog's
chief said on Thursday.
On Monday the commission accused the Bulgarian units of
Lukoil, Royal Dutch Shell, OMV,
Hellenic Petroleum, Gazprom Neft and
Bulgarian Petrol, saying they had collaborated to fix
retail prices of diesel and gasoline.
"We have convincing evidence (of a cartel agreement)," said
Julia Nenkova, the commission's chairwoman.
Nenkova said she would not disclose details because of
commercial and business confidentiality, adding: "I do not think
the companies will be able to prove their innocence."
The Bulgarian Petrol and Gas Association, which represents
all the companies being investigated, has said there are no
cartel agreements between any of its members and it will appeal
on their behalf.
The six companies have 30 days from Oct. 10 to comment on
the commission's findings. They could face fines of up to 10
percent of their annual turnover if found guilty.
The commission began investigating fuel retailers in
February after many Bulgarians complained of high fuel costs
despite a plunge in global oil prices. The commission raided the
offices of the companies in April.
The initial inquiry included Rompetrol, which is
not on the list of fuel retailers that the commission says are
part of the cartel.
Nenkova also said that the commission has launched analyses
of the banking and the pharmaceutical sectors to check if there
are reasons for price-fixing investigations.
(Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Susan Fenton and