Oil Firms Face Fines Over High Prices

MTArtemyev speaking to reporters Wednesday. He threatened to sue oil companies over their prices for oil products.
The Federal Anti-Monopoly Service said Thursday that it has warned the country's major oil firms that it will take legal action if refined oil products' prices remain high, despite falling oil prices.

"All the big companies will get a letter from me today warning them that they need to take responsibility if they do not reduce domestic prices [for oil products]," Igor Artemyev told reporters.

The companies to be sent the letter are Rosneft, LUKoil, TNK-BP, Gazprom Neft and Surgutneftegaz.

In mid-July, the agency challenged the same five companies over high prices for refined products, and fines were ultimately imposed on units of all but Surgutneftegaz for violating antimonopoly rules.

"Oil companies can lower prices now, of their own free will, or they can do so after we initiate legal proceedings," he said.

Prices are to be lowered within "a week, maybe 10 days," otherwise the companies may face additional charges, Artemyev said.

"It's inexplicable how prices aren't falling on the domestic market with world oil prices dropping to $70 per barrel," he added, Interfax reported.

High prices for refined fuel products have caused headaches for the air industry and drivers, who took to the streets across the country to protest last month.

The service has been in the spotlight since Prime Minister Vladimir Putin demanded this summer that it become more active.

Putin wiped more than $8 billion off the market capitalization of coal and steel firm Mechel in July when he accused the company of overcharging on the domestic market and being involved in tax evasion.

Reuters, MT