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Mass sale of filling stations begins in Altai

September 02, 2011, 10:52 UTC+3

One litre of the popular AI-92 petrol at filling stations of major oil companies costs about 23 roubles. Independent market operators sell it for 25 roubles

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BARNAUL, September 2 (Itar-Tass) — Practically all fuel market operators that are not part of vertically integrated oil companies have put their filling stations up for sale sell because of their unprofitability, head of the Altai Fuel Union Yuri Matveiko told reporters on Friday.

“We have the worst situation among all the federal districts. All networks have been put up for sale – about 500 filling stations,” Matveiko said. “Fuel business has ceased to be profitable.”

One litre of the popular AI-92 petrol at filling stations of major oil companies costs about 23 roubles. Independent market operators sell it for 25 roubles.

The Altai Territory was one of the first Russian regions to be swept by the so-called petrol crisis this spring. The first fuel crisis signs appeared in the region on April 22. On April 25 some filling stations in the territory limited petrol sale, and the others raised the fuel price by almost 5 roubles. The tensions on the fuel market in the region continued for about a week. After the crisis, the structure of petrol consumption in the Altai Territory clearly changed. There are queues of motorists almost around the clock at filling station of the large networks - Rosneft and Gazprom Neft. There are no queues at other stations because the fuel price at them is higher.

The Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) department for the Altai Territory in June recognised a number of filling station owners violators of antitrust laws during the petrol crisis that broke out in the region in late April.

Independent owners of filling stations operating in the Rubtsovsk and Zonalny districts of the territory were recognised violators of the legislation. During petrol supply disruption they dramatically increased fuel prices at their filling stations. “It has been decided not to give them improvement notice, as the companies voluntarily reduced the prices. However, they are still held responsible. In particular, the materials on the Rubtsovsk district have already been transferred to the head of the Altai FAS department to initiate administrative proceedings,” said the agency spokeswoman Yelena Pushkareva.

FAS was also considering materials on violations during the petrol crisis by fuel market operators in other districts of the region and by the major market players - Rosneft and Gazprom Neft.

The residents of the Altai Territory who suffered during the petrol crisis in late April are entitled to compensations for moral and material damage, deputy head of the department for prosecutors' participation in civil and arbitration suits under the regional prosecutor’s office Irina Stepanyuk told Itar-Tass earlier. Justice bodies sued 32 petrol station owners soon after the fuel crisis began in the region. The petrol stations in question introduced various restrictions, such as limited amount of fuel that could be purchased, or sold petrol only to club card holders. Courts have already met the prosecutors' demands regarding five companies, finding them guilty of consumer rights violations. “Once the ruling becomes effective, an Altai Territory citizen may file a damages suit against petrol station owners,” Stepanyuk explained.

In her opinion, courts are likely to grant the citizens’ damages suits. “You will have to prove that they have refused to sell petrol to you, by asking an eye-witness to testify at the hearing. The sum of damage will depend on the negative consequences caused to the citizen in each particular case,” she added.

The regional prosecutor’s office noted that no court rulings had been passed on the largest participants in the petrol crisis: Gazprom Neft and Rosneft. After the rulings come in force, the prosecutors will publish a list of companies against which claims may be filed.

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