Officials from the Competition Authority have announced an investigation into costs at the pumps in the period since price liberalisation was introduced in January. The authority, presided over by Abel Mateus, wants to know how supply companies and vendors are setting prices at the pumps and more detail about petrol distribution across the country. The investigation comes at a time when vendors are complaining of indirect price fixing on the part of big companies.
In a letter directed to its vendors, one of the biggest companies operating in Portugal appeared to have decided to unilaterally fix the sales price, something which independent petrol vendors consider to be a way of reducing the theoretical flexibility of price liberalisation. There have also been reports of drivers who are complaining of only knowing about price increases when they come to pay at petrol stations.
Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Economic Activities (IGAE) has carried out a series of inspections aimed at verifying that pumps are abiding by regulations and preventing what it calls ‘speculative practices’. A total of 168 stations were fined and, in some instances, legal proceedings were instigated because of the absence of clear price labelling. Several establishments were closed because they represented a public health hazard and officers detained one suspect who was caught red-handed committing fraud.