The European Commission is preparing to charge Russian state-controlled oil and gas giant Gazprom with abuse of its dominant position in the CEE region, Reuters reported. “It would be premature to anticipate when the next steps would be taken in this investigation, but we have now moved to the phase of preparing a statement of objections,” said EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia.
If found guilty, the Russian firm could pay up to $15 billion in fines
The investigation has been ongoing for over a year, and covered Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria. In September of 2012, the EC inspected, among other companies, state-controlled PGNiG and Gaz-System, and EuRoPol Gaz which transports gas via the Yamal pipeline through Poland.
The EU regulator suspects that Gazprom may have curbed the free flow of gas across the EU and used its dominant position (the Russian firm supplies some 25 percent of the bloc’s gas) to raise gas costs by linking them to oil prices.
The investigation started after Lithuania complained to the EC about Gazprom’s actions, claiming the prices they’ve been charged are unfair. According to the EC, Lithuania pays more for gas than any other EU member.
In the past, Poland also complained about being charged too much for Russian gas. However, in November 2012 PGNiG and Gazprom reached a new agreement, which lowered gas prices for the Polish firm by some 10-20 percent. Poland can also use the Yamal pipeline to import cheaper gas from Germany’s RWE. Lithuania wanted to do the same, but its attempts were nixed by Gazprom (which is one of the pipeline’s operators).
According to EU law, companies can be penalized up to 10 percent of their annual revenues for breaking antitrust rules. Gazprom’s revenue for 2012 stood at $148 billion.
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