Cameron warns petrol bosses: you will face full force of law
Oil bosses could be prosecuted if they are found to have rigged petrol prices, Prime Minister warns
The Prime Minister said firms will face "serious" consequences including potential criminal prosecutions if the allegations are proved true. His comments come after petrol giants including BP and Shell had their offices raided by European regulators amid claims that they have colluded to fix prices for more than a decade. The European Commission's investigation has sparked fears that British consumers stand to have lost thousands of pounds through fiddled oil prices - The Independent reports that oil-price fixing could have added more than £2000 to the average household bill over the past ten years if prices were rigged. The government faces growing pressure to take action, not least because the investigation has echoes of the 2012 Libor scandal, which saw banks falsely report key interest rates. Speaking on a trip to the US, Cameron said he will urgently look at "extending criminal offences" to cover market manipulation in the energy sector.
"We have to get to the bottom of what happened first before I think we can pass judgement on the way regulators have worked in the UK," he said. "It's totally unacceptable for firms to fix prices and force consumers to pay more. That's why we are looking at how to extend this criminal offence to the energy sector [by changing the 2012 Financial Services Act] to make sure that those who manipulate benchmark prices feel the full force of the law."
As the Daily Telegraph notes, the comments raise the prospect that firms which are found to have manipulated household gas or electricity prices could also face criminal sanctions.
The European Commission suspects companies have been distorting oil and biofuel prices since 2002. During that period, petrol prices have risen by more than 80 per cent to around 135p per litre. Energy Secretary Ed Davey said he was "deeply concerned by an allegation that prices for consumers could have been artificially or unnecessarily driven up".
Shell and BP said they were co-operating with the European Commission's investigation.