As every populist raving about petrol prices knows, there’s been an evil Big Oil cartel operating against the best interests of consumers. What the populists perhaps didn’t know is just what price they were conspiring to fix – Dutch bitumen.

As the BBC reports the European Commission has busted the Big Oil cartel after BP squealed. (See, you just can’t trust a petrol pusher who claims the initials stand for “beyond petroleum”.) BP escaped without penalty but Shell copped a fine of $183 million while Total, Kuwait Petroleum and six road builders had to come up with $268 million between them for conspiring to fix the cost of bitumen in the Netherlands.

“The fines for Shell were the highest because it was a repeat offender and because it played a leading role in the cartel,” said the Commission’s spokesman Jonathan Todd. The fines were the seventh largest total penalty the regulator has ever imposed in a cartel case.

Shell has previously been fined by the Commission for price-fixing in the markets for PVC and propylene. The company said it would examine the decision in detail before deciding whether or not to appeal.

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey