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Spain Watchdog Raids Oil Groups Over Alleged Anti-Competitive Practices

 |  December 14, 2022

Spanish investigators have raided the offices of Repsol, Cepsa and BP in a dramatic escalation of a probe into allegations that the companies have abused their power in the gasoline market.

The three companies confirmed that officials from the National Markets and Competition Commission (CNMC) had entered their country headquarters in Madrid after the regulator revealed it had raided “several” unnamed operators in the energy sector.

The competition watchdog’s previously unknown probe is a new source of tension in relations between the Spanish authorities and the energy sector, as the government grapples with the consequences of prices driven higher by the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Related: Antitrust Scrutiny Heating Up in Oil and Gas Industries

One person familiar with the regulator’s probe said it stemmed from complaints from small gas station operators that they were being squeezed by larger groups such as Repsol, Cepsa and BP. The big groups play a dual role as refiners that sell gasoline to fuel station operators while competing directly with them as owners of their own-branded gas stations.

Small operators say that by charging higher wholesale prices then offering consumers generous discounts at the pump the big players have left them struggling to compete financially. 

Repsol and Cepsa have long been the two dominant players in the oil business in Spain, although both are seeking to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and are investing in renewable power projects. BP has been in the country since the 1950s.