Italian petrol companies are to be investigated by the European Union antitrust watchdog over allegations of price fixing. Nine companies in total will be under scrutiny for exchanging information and influencing the price of fuel on the market since 2004. Shell, Eni, Esso, Kuwait Petroleum, Tamoil, Total, Erg, Ip and Api are the companies involved in the investigation, which should be concluded by the end of March 2008. The price of fuel in Italy is currently higher than the median in other European countries, and suspicions were also aroused due to the parallel development of price hikes between lead-free petrol and diesel.
The Italian petrol sector is already up in arms about another issue, with station attendants threatening a 48-hour strike for the first week in February if the minister for economic development Pierluigi Bersani goes ahead with a plan to allow supermarkets to distribute fuel as part of his new packet of liberalization laws. Bersani is set to make his decision in the next few days.