If you are a large company in Germany, there is no government agency that you fear more than the Bundeskartellamt. It’s the anti-monopoly police. Being audited by the Finanzamt, the German equivalent of the IRS, is considered paradise compared to being in the cross-hairs of the Monopol-Polizei. Europe’s large oil companies are in the cross hairs and are just about to be shot.
According to a three year study conducted by the agency, five large oil companies dictate the gasoline prices in Germany: Aral/BP, Shell, Jet, Esso and Total. Together, they hold 70 percent of the market and form a „market dominating oligopoly.”
Kay Weidner, speaker of the Kartellamt, confirmed to Auto Bild that the result of the study confirms “that there is such an oligopoly.”
The government agency does not allege price fixing – yet : „That is a different project,“ Weidner says ominously. According to the study, the big five have a price monitoring system. It makes price fixing superfluous. „Price fixing is against the law, copying prices is not,” said a manager of the oil industry.
Last month, a liter of super did cost €1.62, that’s $8.62 a gallon. There is pressure on the government to intervene, and the government seems to want to intervene.
Intervention begins at home: 57 percent of the price, that would be $4.91 a gallon, goes into the pockets of the German government as taxes.
Predictably, that was the answer of Big Oil: If the government wants lower prices, it should lower taxes, said Klaus Picard, Managing Director of the German Association of Mineral Oil Producers.