Oil price fixing cartel uncovered

THE Competition Commission has referred its findings of price fixing in the supply of bitumen by major oil companies to the Competition Tribunal.

THE Competition Commission has referred its findings of price fixing in the supply of bitumen by major oil companies to the Competition Tribunal.

The companies include Chevron SA, Engen, Shell SA, Total SA, Masana Petroleum Solutions, the Southern African Bitumen Association, Sasol and Tosas, the commission said yesterday.

The investigation was initiated on January 12 last year after an application for leniency by Sasol and its subsidiary Tosas.

"In its application Sasol admitted that it had with its subsidiary Tosas, colluded with its competitors and was granted conditional immunity from prosecution provided it co-operates with the commission in its investigation and prosecution."

Sasol yesterday said it regretted its contravention of competition law but said its involvement "was of a technical nature and was not secretive".

The world's largest oil producer from coal said its competition law compliance review in January last year revealed initial concerns of non-compliance with competition laws relating to Sasol Oil.

The company's launch of the competition law compliance review was sparked by a fine of more than R3billion it had to pay for leading what the European Union dubbed in 2008 a paraffin mafia.

The commission said it had asked the tribunal to impose an administrative penalty of 10percent on each of the firms involved, except for Sasol and Tosas.

The commission found that the respondents engaged in collusive conduct from around 2000 until at least December 2009.

It said the conduct resulted in final customers being charged prices which were not competitively determined.

Commissioner Shan Ramburuth said the uncovering of the cartel was "another important step in the commission's work in addressing anti-competitive conduct affecting infrastructure development". - Sapa and I-Net Bridge

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