Oil company BP is being investigated over allegations of price-fixing, it emerged tonight.
The European Commission said a series of unannounced inspections were carried out by its officials on oil companies earlier today.
A spokesman for BP said: “BP is one of the companies that is subject to an investigation that was announced earlier today by the European Commission.
“We are co-operating fully with the investigation and unable to comment further at this time.”
Norwegian company Statoil also confirmed its office in Stavanger was inspected today.
A statement from the European Commission said: “The European Commission can confirm that, on 14 May 2013, Commission officials 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 in reporting distorted prices to a Price Reporting Agency to manipulate the published prices for a number of oil and biofuel products.
“Furthermore, the Commission has concerns that the companies may have prevented others from participating in the price assessment process, with a view to distorting published prices.
“Any such behaviour, if established, may amount to violations of European antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices and abuses of a dominant market position (Articles 101 and 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU and Articles 53 and 54 of the EEA Agreement).”
The European Commission statement added that even small distortions of assessed prices could have a ``huge impact on the prices of crude oil, refined oil products and biofuels purchases and sales, potentially harming final consumers''.
It said that unannounced inspections are a preliminary step to investigating suspected anti-competitive practices and do not mean that the companies are guilty of any wrongdoing.
There is no legal deadline to complete inquiries.