The European Commission stepped up its investigation into oil price fixing as it sought information from trading houses such as the FTSE 100 giant Glencore.
The commission sent shockwaves through the oil industry last week when it announced it was looking into allegations that oil companies were colluding to inflate oil and petrol prices and raided the offices of companies such as Shell and BP.
Yesterday, it emerged that Brussels had sent information requests to the likes of Vitol, Gunvor, Mercuria and Glencore, which account for a huge proportion of the world’s oil trade.
There is no suggestion that these trading houses are under investigation. “The commission is asking every man and his dog about oil price manipulation,” one source said. Both the commission and the trading houses declined to comment.
Announcing its investigation last week, Brussels said that the alleged price fixing, which could have been going on for more than a decade, could have a “huge impact” on the price of crude oil, “potentially harming final consumers” on petrol station forecourts.
Ultimately, the price that people pay for oil, petrol and related products around the world is determined by a handful of “benchmarks”, the best known of which is Brent crude. Price-reporting agencies calculate the benchmark rate using data provided to them by oil companies, banks and hedge funds, which trade oil on a daily basis; Brussels suspects these submissions are, in some cases, fraudulent.