Calls have been made for further investigations in the UK into alleged price-fixing in the oil industry, after European anti-trust regulators confirmed they had carried out raids on several firms involved in the sector.

The raids, which took place on Tuesday 14 May, are reported to have involved BP, Shell, Statoil and oil pricing agency Platts.

A statement from the European Commission (EC) said it had “concerns that the companies may have colluded in reporting distorted prices to a price reporting agency to manipulate the published prices for a number of oil and biofuel products”.

This behaviour, if established, “may amount to violations of European antitrust rules”, it said.

The raids were a preliminary step to investigate suspected anti-competitive practices, confirmed the EC. Even small distortions of assessed prices “may have a huge impact on the prices of crude oil, refined oil products and biofuels purchases and sales, potentially harming final consumers”, it added.

UK investigation needed

Conservative MP for Harlow and founder of campaign group Robert Halfon – whose private bill to get greater transparency on fuel receipts failed recently and whose calls for an investigation into the UK oil market were rejected by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in January – said the latest allegations underlined the urgent need for an investigation into the oil market.

“Oil companies must come clean and show some responsibility for what is happening to the international oil price,” he said.

The Petrol Retailers’ Association (PRA), which submitted a complaint on oil price fixing to the OFT in January 2012, also welcomed the move by the EC. “Independent retailers hope this investigation will help provide the proper price transparency that consumers and businesses deserve and need,” said PRA chairman Brian Madderson.

Robert Downes, policy adviser at the Forum of Private Business, said the EC move would “raise questions” about the OFT’s operation if it does find any wrongdoing.

He added that UK businesses operating vehicles would be “incandescent” if EC price-fixing allegations turned out to be true.