Responding to Tavish’s thoughts regarding fuel prices and the Office of Fair Trading, I would tend to agree with his observations.
Moreover, I would also suggest that they are simply being outmanoeuvred and are investigating an industry that they do not appear to understand fully.
Furthermore, this industry has no regulator and relies solely on markets working effectively, in order for consumers to receive fair prices.
The UK fuel distribution field map has changed dramatically in recent years with many acquisitions forming companies with massive turnovers.
They could undoubtedly intimidate others left in the same market place – this is not necessary bad for the consumer or the business for that matter.
However things start to go wrong when certain ‘elements’ within a company almost wish and/or solicit favour from their larger competitor, in order to remain in a market or even grow the business.
The initial contact between them may actually be by chance e.g. International Petroleum Week.
The ‘unscrupulous’ relish these occasions to meet similarly-minded individuals as it gives both an opportunity to gain necessary insights into any weaknesses or advantages the other may have.
Furthermore, the ‘unscrupulous’ will almost have no interest in the event and only wish to receive some sort of recognition from whom they perceive is the most dominant supplier.
During the contact one or the other will be waiting for that opportune moment that triggers a relationship that they think is ‘real business’.
Then they believe that they are smarter than anyone else? Few words of consequence may actually be exchanged in the beginning but in future both will have parts to play as they become positively intertwined with shared information and understandings, i.e. a gentleman’s agreement.
If any activities like the scenario described have ever taken place, or similar, then the OFT would have grounds to investigate any companies concerned, as this would be illegal, i.e. a ‘cartel’ prohibited by the Competition Act.