20th Sep 2019

EU raids 20 energy firms in six member states

  • Experts say gas and electricity prices in the EU remain high partly due to lack of competition (Photo: European Community, 2006)

EU antitrust officials have raided around 20 of the biggest European energy firms in six member states, under suspicion of abusing their market position.

France's Gaz de France, Germany's RWE and E.ON, Austria's OMV and Belgium's Fluxys were among those involved in the "surprise inspections" reported by the European Commission on Wednesday (17 May), along with gas companies in Italy and electricity firms in Hungary.

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Brussels regulators were trying to find out whether the firms were guilty of "restrictive business practices and/or abuse of a dominant market position," particularly concerning access to pipelines and storage facilities, commission spokesman Jonathan Todd informed.

He added that the raid as such did not suggest the companies were "guilty of any anti-competitive behaviour."

The probe comes as part of the EU executive's attempt to crackdown on monopoly practices in the bloc's energy sector, announced by competition commissioner Neelie Kroes in February.

Jean-Francois Bellis, professor of competition law at Brussels' Free University commented "The commission has made greater competition in the energy sector a priority but it is finding that prices aren't moving. So it's normal that it takes action," according to AFP.

Meanwhile, the British energy market regulator, Ofgem, hailed Wednesday's move.

"The commission is rightly baring its teeth," said Ofgem chief Sir John Mogg, adding "It is now demonstrably serious about tackling anti-competitive practices in the European energy markets. And it needs to be," UK daily Guardian reported.

Under EU rules, the commission could fine companies it finds guilty of abusing their market power up to 10 percent of their total annual turnover.

But it will probably take several months before Brussels regulators decide to file any charges against the firms targeted by the raids.

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