Are rogue traders to blame for higher petrol prices?

Oil traders are facing allegations of price rigging – which in turn could be leading to over-inflated costs for drivers at the pumps.

A whistleblower in the financial services industry is thought to be the source of the assertions, claiming that prices are fixed daily by traders – and that “massive buying pressure” was exerted on the oil market during the summer, artificially inflating prices.

Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, Robert Halfon, Tory MP for Harlow, expressed the need for the Financial Services Authority and Office of Fair Trading to look into the matter.”There are allegations of price-fixing. This means that even if the oil companies are doing the right thing, the hedge funds and speculators are rigging the price of oil to keep it artificially high,” he said.

Energy Minister John Hayes promised that the issue would now by looked into. He told the Commons: “The Wheatley review into Libor, which will consider whether benchmark indices in other markets need to be looked at, will of course include this market.”

The latest allegations come just two months after a report warned of the potential for manipulation, stating that assessments from oil price reporting agencies – who come up with the market value for oil – can be very easily twisted by traders.

Because the assessments come from information that’s handed over voluntarily by traders, it’s quite possible for them to withhold particular figures, and influence the ‘average’ oil price to their advantage.

The Wheatley review should be published by the end of September, and will consider whether the issue needs to be looked into further. With petrol prices continuing to rise, though, we look forward to a thorough investigation into the matter.