CH Jones's provision of bunker fuel cards: alleged abuse of a dominant position

Office of Fair Trading (OFT) closed Competition Act 1998 case.

Investigation into alleged abuse of dominance by bunker fuel firm CH Jones

Case reference: CE/9278/10


Whether CH Jones Limited (CH Jones) trading as Keyfuels had infringed Chapter II of the Competition Act 1998 (Chapter II prohibition) and/or Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) in relation to the provision of bunker fuel card services to direct bunkering customers and/or pay as you go (PAYG) fuel card services to customers operating HGV fleets.

Summary of work

  1. The case concerned an allegation that CH Jones was abusing a dominant position in a 'diesel bunker card market' by engaging in a strategy composed of several elements, including the use of exclusive agreements with bunker fuel sites, the alleged objective of which was to remove competition, including CH Jones' main rival, UK Fuels Limited (UK Fuels), from providing diesel bunker cards (direct bunkering cards and pay-as-you-go bunker cards) to HGV fleets.
  2. The OFT launched an investigation after being contacted by the complainant, UK Fuels, in April 2010.
  3. During its investigation the OFT gathered and conducted a thorough review of a very significant body of evidence including documentary and potential witness material. 
  4. The OFT issued a Statement of Objections (SO) in February 2011 to CH Jones setting out its provisional case. The OFT also provided UK Fuels with a non-confidential version of the SO in its capacity as the formal complainant in this case.
  5. The OFT received representations from the parties. CH Jones provided its written representations in September 2011 and oral representations in October 2011. CH Jones provided additional witness evidence in support of its representations. UK Fuels also provided written representations in April 2011.
  6. Following the receipt of representations made by CH Jones and UK Fuels on market definition and additional witness evidence provided by CH Jones, the OFT undertook additional investigative steps by interviewing a sample of direct bunkering hauliers with a view to assessing the strength of those representations.
  7. Having completed these additional interviews and following a careful consideration of the representations of CH Jones and UK Fuels on the SO and of the evidence then in its possession, the OFT provided its provisional no grounds for action decision to the parties in July 2013. As the formal complainant in this case, the OFT also provided UK Fuels with a non-confidential version of its provisional no grounds for action decision in July 2013. CH Jones and UK Fuels provided their written representations on certain matters contained in the provisional decision in August 2013.
  8. Having carefully reviewed CH Jones' and UK Fuels' representations on both the SO and the provisional decision, and having assessed all the evidence in the round in its possession, the OFT concluded in October 2013 that the evidence was finely balanced but was not sufficiently persuasive to support a finding that CH Jones held a dominant position in a relevant market.
  9. In the circumstances, the OFT concluded that, following a thorough investigation, it had no grounds for action in relation to the allegations set out in the SO and therefore decided to close its case.

Case timetable

Milestone  Date
Investigation opened 26 April 2010 (actual)
Initial investigation: information gathering, including issuance of formal or informal information requests and parties’ responses May 2010 (actual)
OFT analysis and review of parties’ responses to information requests May 2010 - January 2011 (actual)
Further information requests issued May 2010 - January 2011 (actual)
Internal governance processes to decide investigation outcome May 2010 - January 2011 (actual)
Investigation outcome (issue of Statement of Objections; case closure) Statement of Objections issued on 25 February 2011 (actual)
Procedural Adjudicator's decision (PDF, 93KB) regarding the disclosure of certain confidential information provided by Royal Mail to CH Jones' advisors within an OFT data room and subject to a confidentiality agreement. August 2011 (actual)
Receipt of parties' written representations on the Statement of Objections September 2011 (actual)
Oral hearings with parties on written representations on Statement of Objections. October 2011 (actual)
OFT consideration of parties' written and oral representations on the Statement of Objections September 2011 to November 2012 (actual)
OFT decision as how to proceed in light of investigation since the Statement of Objections. December 2012 (actual)
OFT decision to close the case on the basis that it had no grounds for action October 2013 (actual)
Change log

The following changes have been made to the administrative timetable since it was first published in October 2012.

Date of change(s) Reason for change Nature of change(s) made to timetable
25 April 2013 Further investigative and procedural steps required. Estimated timetable for case outcome is October 2013 rather than March 2013.

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