Competition Council conducts investigation on alleged rigged auctions organised by Transgaz. Gas tariffs could go down

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The gas tariffs paid by consumers could go down, if an investigation conducted by the Competition Council (CC) would prove that some of the auctions organised by Transgaz were rigged. Most likely, the auctions were organised for the state company’s transport capacities. The tariffs might decrease, as it happened in the case of electricity, CC President, Bogdan Chiritoiu, said on Monday.

“The council will complete the case this year, we suspect a cartel was organised for the Transgaz auctions. It’s about companies already sanctioned for a similar previous offence, the rigging of Transgaz auctions – we have received from the Prosecutor’s Office clues pointing to these offenses, these cartels have influenced other auctions as well,” Chiritoiu said, informs.

He said the situation is similar as in the case of the investigation on the electric power market, when several meter suppliers reached a deal in order to win the auctions organised by Electrica.

“If our suspicion is confirmed, then we face a similar situation as the one in the electricity field, related to meters, meaning that Transgaz paid more than it should have for such equipments. This means Transgaz has also collected more money from its customers, i.e. the companies in the gas distribution field, which in turn collected the money from the customers, through the distribution tariffs,” Chiritoiu said.

The CC head argues that if the cartel is proven, automatically the auction price was higher than in the case the companies have no understanding.

“This is included in the guidelines issued by the European Commission. We have guidelines reading that, when there is a cartel, usually the auction price is higher by 20%. Works are ongoing on the EC guidelines regarding the way these hikes are transferred into the price paid by the consumers,” the CC head said.

The CC started, at the end of last year, a similar investigation in the case of auctions organised by Transelectrica, the national electricity carrier.

“If we find out a cartel similar to the one in the auctions organised by Transelectrica, we would have to find ways to recover the damage to the consumers,” Chiritoiu said.

The CC fined four companies in 2012 by RON 25,464,865 (approx. EUR 5.6 million) for rigging two auctions organised by Transgaz. The sanctions were enforced during the investigation for a possible understanding between the companies to attend rigged auctions organised by Transgaz during 2009-2011, for contracts involving natural gas connections.

In 2014, the CC started another investigation on possible understandings between 13 companies to rig the auctions organised by Transgaz. Subsequently, the investigation was extended to 11 auctions, 14 companies being suspected.

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