Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca met with the Minister of Energy Virgil Popescu and the Minister of Economy, Florin Spataru, on Thursday morning.
In the meeting hosted at Victoria Palace, the chairman of the National Authority for Consumer Protection (ANPC), Horia Miron Constantinescu, as well as the chairman of the Competition Council, Bogdan Chiritoriu and the chairman of the National Tax Management Authority (ANAF), Mirela Calugareanu, also took part.
Gas stations nationwide were packed with drivers, on Wednesday evening, scared that fuel price will exceed 10 RON per liter, just as it was circulated in the public space.
On Thursday morning, in Bucharest, the fuels were sold at prices between 7.43 and 9.59 RON, after the gas stations were assaulted by the drivers on Wednesday evening, afraid that fuel price will exceed 10 RON per liter as of tonight, as rumored in the public space.
Pictures of drivers buying fuel in bags, teapots, containers and demijohns, containers, and barrels have appeared on social networks.
The minister of Energy Virgil Popescu said on Wednesday evening, regarding the fact that fuel prices have reached 11 RON per liter, that they left the MOL petrol station network, and “if they had been more careful, this would not have happened”.
“This is about the MOL network, because from this network, in Beius, the information left, of 11 RON. (…) This information circulated social media and ended up creating panic in Romania in a very short time: huge lines in gas stations that as of tomorrow prices will be 10 and 11 RON and more, that we will end up without stocks of gas and petrol. (…) It is excluded to assist in a price explosion for gas and petrol, given the fact that the price per barrel has started going down,” Virgil Popescu said, for private TV Broadcaster Digi 24.
The official previously wrote on his own Facebook page that Romania has no problem with refueling at gas stations, and Romanians should not panic and queue, because stocks are sufficient.
“Romania has no problem with the supply of fuel to petrol stations. Today I had working meetings with representatives of Rompetrol and OMV Petrom and I received assurances that there are sufficient stocks of petroleum products and will ensure deliveries to customers. At the same time, I want to convey to Romanians they should not panic and queue up. We have enough stocks!”, Popescu claimed.
In the same context, the Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca ordered the beginning of extensive controls at the petrol stations, announced also the spokesman for the Government, Dan Carbunaru.
“There are no real reasons for accelerated price increases in Romania. Our country has sufficient fuel stocks. Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca has ordered the start of extensive inspections at petrol stations. The Romanian Government will not allow any attempt of market speculation”, said Carbunaru.
According to information obtained by AGERPRES, due to problems at a refinery in Hungary, MOL has had a shortage of fuel on the Romanian market.
Controls at all oil companies operating in Romania
Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca announced on Thursday controls at all oil companies operating in Romania, as the National Tax Administration Agency (ANAF), the Consumer Protection Authority (ANPC) and the Competition Council have already taken the necessary steps and lawbreakers will be hit with “drastic” sanctions.
“The Romanian state has an obligation to protect its citizens, to protect the economy, especially in this complicated period caused by the Russian military invasion of Ukraine. I will not allow anyone to take advantage of this situation and attempt to destabilize the country’s economy and the citizens’ life, out of profiteering greed or for any other reason. The responsible institutions will be firm in the checks they’ll conduct and will hand out drastic sanctions to those who break the law,” the Prime Minister declared at the Victoria Palace of Government.
Those responsible for speculation of fuel prices to be held accountable for unfair commercial practices
Those responsible for the speculation created on Wednesday evening by the increase in prices at the pump, at the gas stations, will be responsible for unfair commercial practices, said on Thursday the Minister of Economy, Florin Spataru, in a post on his Facebook page.
“We have ordered the setting up of control teams from the National Consumer Protection Authority (ANPC) which, today [Thursday, ed.n.] will go to check all the fuel suppliers that created panic among the consumers yesterday due to the artificial/speculative rise, in some gas stations. In addition, the checks will also cover the way in which the fuel was sold, taking into account the images that circulated in the online environment that captured people who stored gasoline or diesel, bought from the pump, in various plastic containers. The obligation of economic operators is to provide only services that do not affect the life, health or safety of consumers or their economic interests (GEO 21/1992 on consumer protection, art. 7),” the cited minister transmitted.
ANPC considers confiscating revenues made by the petrol stations by price gouging
Romania is considering confiscating the revenues made by the petrol stations by price gouging and issuing fines of between 2,000 and 100,000 lei, National Consumer Protection Authority (ANPC) Chairman Horia Constantinescu announced on Thursday.
“We are considering penalising an incorrect commercial practice and issuing decisions for each of the petrol stations following it. We are looking at whether or not some of the stations hike prices just because the others did the same. In my profane opinion, we could talk about a structure or a cartel-type initiative, because there is no justification in following suit if the neighbour increases the price only for you to draw extra profit. If that is confirmed, we will be considering, together with our colleagues from ANAF [National Tax Administration Agency], the confiscation of the revenues from price gouging and sending the money to the national budget. I think that this additional penalty is harsher than that of handing a fine of between 2,000 and 100,000 lei, which we will certainly apply if we find violations to absolutely all the stations we check,” Constantinescu said at the end of a check of one of the petrol stations involved in price gouging.
He said he is of the opinion that the people who bought very large quantities of fuel boosted such a questionable practice by which the petrol stations unreasonably increased their prices.
He also pointed out that there was no justification for raising prices given the existence of fuel stockpiles.
Competition Council investigating if fuel price increase justified
The Competition Council is monitoring the fuel market and investigating the situations in which the prices have risen very much, without having an economic reason, shows a release of the authority, sent on Thursday to AGERPRES.
The anticipation of a certain price that should be implemented by a company and announcing it to the market may enter under the incidence of the provisions of the Competition Law. Companies must establish independently their price policies, depending on their own strategy and the structure of costs implied by running their activity, deals and/or concerted actions regarding market behavior being punished by the legislation in the sector, according to the release.
“It is a difficult and volatile international situation mainly generated by the adoption of economic measures to combat the Russian aggression in Ukraine. In this context, we are watching so that some companies do not profit from this situation, because a possible unjustified increase in prices may lead to sanctions,” said Bogdan Chiritoiu, chair of the Competition Council.
USR’s Drula: Queues for petrol show a lack of confidence in this government
Queues for petrol show a lack of confidence in this government, according to Save Romania Union (USR) President Catalin Drula, who accuses the Minister of Energy of “incompetence” and believes that “reshuffle is needed”.
“Queues for petrol show a lack of confidence in this government, which has been inconsistent all winter on the issue of energy prices. How can people still believe you, Mr. Ciuca? How much longer do we have to endure Virgil Popescu’s incompetence?”, the USR leader wrote on Facebook.
In his view, it is time for a government reshuffle.
“It is high time for a reshuffle in this failed government! A month ago, USR submitted a bill in Parliament to reduce the VAT from 19% to 5% for fuels. Citu and Ciolacu, we keep giving you the solutions, but nothing! People are waiting for solutions. They are waiting for decisions. That is why you are there!”, added Catalin Drula.