The European Commission fired another shot in its antitrust probe against Russia’s Gazprom on Wednesday, alleging the state owned energy player has been committing market abuses in central and eastern Europe.
The commissions sent a statement of objections to the company claiming that “some of its business practices in Central and Eastern European gas markets constitute an abuse of its dominant market position in breach of EU antitrust rules.”
The commission alleges Gazprom strong armed customers into accepting higher prices by curbing gas deliveries to some central and eastern European countries.
EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager told the BBC that Gazprom “may have built artificial barriers preventing gas from flowing from certain Central European countries to others, hindering cross-border competition.”
Regulators said Gazprom stifled gas market competition in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia.
The allegations come on the heels of a months long pricing dispute between the Ukrainian government and Gazrpom that led to a six month gas delivery suspension last year.
Ukraine can not be included in the EC’s complaint because it is not a member of the EU.
European regulators could impose maximum fines equal to 10 percent of Gazprom’s global revenue.
Gazprom called the allegations “unsubstantiated” and said it “strictly adheres to all the rules of international law and legislation” where it operates.
“Operation of Gazprom Group on the EU market, including applicable principles of gas pricing, meets the standards that are used by other producers and exporters of gas,” the company said.
The company has 12 weeks to respond to the allegations, the BBC said.
The statement of objections is part of an ongoing antitrust probe into the company’s EU operations that was launched nearly four years ago and saw regulators raid Gazprom offices.
Gazprom said it expects the situation to be resolved in accordance with an earlier agreement between the Russian government and the EC tied to the probe.