By Myrna M. Velasco
The Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) has required advocacy group and complainant Laban Konsyumer, Inc. (LKI) to submit data on weekly price adjustments for November and December 2019 as evidence to the oil price collusion, price-fixing and cartelization case that the entity had filed against the oil companies.
LKI President Victorio Mario A. Dimagiba said he will adhere to the document-submissions as directed by the anti-trust body.
“I will submit January (2020) proof of actual purchase of gas or diesel and that the adjustment should be as texted or announced,” he told the media.
The collusion case against the oil firms, Dimagiba added, shall be tackled and deliberated upon by the Enforcement and Economic Division of the PCC.
“The process involves an assessment, investigation in 90 days, full administrative investigation and statement of objections to be filed by the Competition and Enforcement Office with the Commission proper,” he explained.
In addition, Dimagiba noted that the PCC asked for the submission of an Executive Order on oil inventory requirements; as well as the pricing formula being instituted in the cost adjustments for the downstream oil industry.
The LKI president similarly indicated PCC’s assertion that a government regulatory agency should not have been a party to the case, but he said the Department of Energy’s (DOE) inclusion may be warranted so it can be invited “to comment on policy that may impact competition.”
Accordingly, it was noted that PCC’s processes are bound by confidentiality; and that Dimagiba as a complainant had been directed to execute “a pledge of no conflict of interest,” relative to the inquiry on the pricing concerns of the oil companies.
It has to be recalled that in November, LKI had filed its complaint before the PCC alleging that the oil firms violated several provisions of the Downstream Oil Deregulation Act or Republic Act 8479 as well as other relevant laws and policies restricting connivance of industry players on fixing their prices as passed on to the consumers.
Dimagiba cited the usual weekly cost movements of the oil industry players wherein they have been adjusting prices of commodities like diesel, gasoline and kerosene “with the same amount and effectivity, and implemented on the same date.”
He primarily cited prospective violation of Section 14 (a) and (c) of Republic Act 10667 or the National Competition Policy in “restricting competition as to price,” and other forms as well as in the form of trading that the oil companies have been engaging in.
The LKI president further rapped that the oil firms may have breached Section 11 or the anti-trust safeguards of the Oil Deregulation Law, thereby restricting fair competition and had supposedly triggered cartels and monopolies in the industry.
As defined, cartelization entails “any agreement, combination or concerted action by refiners, importers and/or dealers, or their representatives to fix prices, restrict outputs or divide markets, either by products or by areas, or allocate markets either by products or by areas, in restraint of trade or free competition.”