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PCC complaint could be filed over coordinated fuel price adjustments

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PHILSTAR

A CONSUMER GROUP is studying whether to file a complaint before the competition regulator against oil companies on the seeming unison in their price adjustments for petroleum products each week.

“I’m studying it,” said Victorio A. Dimagiba, president of consumer advocacy group Laban Konsyumer, Inc. (LKI), in a chance interview.

His group last month asked the Department of Justice and the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) to look into the upward and downward adjustment in oil retail prices in similar or identical amounts.

In an affidavit, he said a number of service stations along Fairview Ave., Quezon City were selling diesel at the same amount per liter. He also questioned the discounts given by some fuel stations and whether the retail prices of fuel products are in fact higher than what they should be.

Mr. Dimagiba, a former undersecretary of the Department of Trade and Industry, said he believes that the discounts are staged. He said consumers need to be informed whether the behavior in the retail market of fuel products are in order.

Sought for comment, PCC Commissioner Johannes R. Bernabe said Mr. Dimagiba’s affidavit will form part of the agency’s data set.

“We’re incorporating it as part of our information when we look into all these allegations of possible anti-competitive practices in the fuel retail sector,” he said in a chance interview.

Mr. Bernabe said he had told Mr. Dimagiba that his affidavit cannot be called a verified complaint. He said the door is always open for the consumer group to formalize its observations into a complaint to trigger a PCC preliminary investigation within 90 days.

“He knows the process,” he said. “He’s aware of it.”

Asked whether the PCC is on its own doing an investigation on the oil companies and their petroleum prices, he said: “I cannot confirm nor deny it.”

Mr. Dimagiba said that in the meantime, he had achieved his objective of informing PCC of his observations in the fuel market, including the weekly increase or decrease of petroleum product prices at the same amount, and the identical pricing in some areas.

“Whether I will file… maybe yes. But I’m updating my data. Maybe I will use four weeks [worth of data],” he said, adding that his submission should prove consistency and show in detail the price behavior, identity of the dealers and the location of the retail stations.

Mr. Dimagiba said he is aware that the PCC is itself establishing baseline data on a number of sectors in which it suspects anti-competitive practices. — Victor V. Saulon