Notwithstanding a 40% fall in crude oil prices internationally over the last year to a stable level below USD 30 per barrel, retail prices in many Member States remain disproportionately high.
In Greece, for example, the figures for February 2016 compared with the previous year show that the price of unleaded petrol fell by only 2% to an average of EUR 1.37 per litre in January 2016 from EUR 1.398 in 2015. Over the same period, the cost of diesel fell by only 10%, LPG by 8% and heating oil by 16%, while in most other EU Member States the decrease was substantially greater.
The fact that prices have fallen in many Member States and for no apparent reason remained high in others has, in view of demand inelasticity, had a major impact in terms of competition.
In view of this:
1. Can Commissioner Vestager say how the Commission intends to address the resulting problems of competitiveness?
2. How will the Commission protect households and businesses from excessive fuel costs?
Answer given by Ms Vestager on behalf of the Commission
The decrease of crude oil prices does not automatically translate into a similar decrease of prices for refined oil products at retail level. The level and structure of retail fuel prices is driven to a considerable extent by taxes and levies set by national governments. The Commission would refer the Honourable Member to its answer to Written Question E-010778/2014 regarding Greece in this regard.
While the Commission does not have indications that high retail prices are a result of anti-competitive behaviour by companies, it continues monitoring the oil markets. For instance, if excessive fuel costs in Greece were to be caused by anti-competitive behaviour of companies (e.g. by dominant companies abusing their market power), the Hellenic Competition Commission(1) or the Commission could intervene against such company behaviour.
In addition the Commission is publishing and benchmarking fuel prices in the EU as well as seeking ways to improve the functioning of internal energy market(2) with citizens at its core to ensure that all consumers are protected and benefit from more competitive, secure and affordable energy.
(1) See, for instance, a recent case by the Hellenic Competition Commission regarding the retail fuel market in Greece:
(2) Communication on the Energy Union: http://ec.europa.eu/priorities/energy-union/index_en.htm
‘New Deal for Energy Consumers’: http://ec.europa.eu/energy/en/news/new-electricity-market-consumers