Watchdog to monitor Indian oil retail industry

Associated Press

Bangalore, January 29:

India plans to establish a watchdog agency to keep tabs on the retail price of oil and ensure fair competition among fuel outlets, the country’s law minister said on Saturday.

In April 2002, India opened up its $15 billion (euro11.5 billion) oil retail sector to both local and foreign investment. For years, it had been controlled by a handful of public-sector companies. “As private companies enter the sector, it is important to ensure that there is no exploitation of the consumer,” said law and justice minister H R Bhardwaj. “Otherwise, the companies will arbitrarily raise the prices of commodities.”

Petrochemical giant Royal Dutch/Shell group became involved in India’s oil retail industry late last year. It has been permitted to open 2,000 outlets across the country.

India nationalised its oil industry in the 1970s taking over outlets operated by foreign companies. It deregulated the refinery sector in the 1980s and the exploration sector in the 1990s. Foreign firms that invest at least 20 billion rupees ($455 million; euro349 million) in the industry are allowed to open retail fuel outlets.