April 6, 2016 / 12:31 PM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 1-Bulgaria's anti-monopoly watchdog raids fuel retailers offices

(Adds Lukoil’s comment, details)

SOFIA, April 6 (Reuters) - Bulgaria’s anti-monopoly watchdog raided the offices of two fuel retailers as part of an investigation into the country’s only oil refinery and seven fuel retailers for possible cartel agreements to fix prices of petrol and diesel.

“The Commission for Protection of Competition raided several offices of Lukoil and Rompetrol in the capital Sofia,” the commission’s spokesman said on Wednesday. “Our goal is to try to collect as much evidence as possible.”

Rompetrol declined to comment on an ongoing investigation. A spokeswoman for Lukoil’s Bulgarian unit said the company was fully cooperating with the anti-monopoly commission.

“We are open and transparent. We call for unbiased and equal treatment, and checks of all players in the fuel retail market,” the spokeswoman, Maya Zhekova, said.

In February, the watchdog started investigating the Bulgarian units of Lukoil and Rompetrol as well as units of Royal Dutch Shell, OMV, Hellenic Petroleum , Nis Petrol, majority owned by Russia’s Gazprom Neft , and Bulgarian Petrol.

It has also launched a probe into the Lukoil Neftochim Burgas oil refinery regarding possible abuse of its dominant position related to the sale of its fuels on the local market.

The investigation followed complaints by Bulgarians over high fuel costs despite a plunge in global oil prices and a request by Prime Minister Boiko Borisov that the competition authority hasten checks on the fuel sector.

The competition authority launched a full investigation after an analysis of the EU country’s fuel sector between 2013 and 2015. It found that the retail price policies of the seven companies were very similar and too slow to reflect falls in wholesale and production prices. (Reporting by Angel Krasimirov and Tsvetelia Tsolova; editing by Jon Boyle)

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