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Investigators from the European Commission (EC) carried out raids at BP‘s offices in Canary Wharf and Shell‘s offices in central London and Rotterdam on Tuesday, as part of a probe into alleged price fixing in Europe.

Raids were also conducted at the London office of price-reporting agency Platts and the Stavenger office of Norway’s Statoil.

Prices reported by agencies such as Platts are used as the benchmarks for trade in a huge number of products, including the petrol price.

The suspected violations are related to Platts’ Market-On-Close (MOC) price assessment process, which is used to report prices for crude oil, refined oil products and biofuels.

In a statement, EC said: "Investigators carried out unannounced inspections at the premises of several companies active in and providing services to the crude oil, refined oil products and biofuels sectors."

"The Commission has concerns that the companies may have colluded … to manipulate the published prices for a number of oil and biofuel products.

"Even small distortions of assessed prices may have a huge impact on the prices of crude oil, refined oil products and biofuels purchases and sales, potentially harming final consumers," EC added.

The commission noted that the raids were an initial step to investigate suspected anti-competitive practices.

EC also alleged the firms "may have prevented others from participating in the price assessment process, with a view to distorting published prices."

A BP spokesman said: "BP is one of the companies that is subject to an investigation that was announced earlier today by the European Commission."

"The suspected violations are related to Platts’ Market-On-Close (MOC) price assessment process."

"We are cooperating fully with the investigation and unable to comment further at this time," the spokesman added.

Shell spokesman said: "We can confirm that Shell companies are currently assisting the European Commission in an inquiry into trading activities."

Shadow energy and climate change secretary Caroline Flint said the reports are "very concerning", which if true, is "shocking behaviour" in the oil market.

Image: Shell Centre building in London, UK. Photo courtesy of Blueshade.