Paris: Total, Europe's third-largest oil producer, Royal Dutch Shell and UGI units received complaints from France's antitrust agency as part of an investigation into the propane and butane industry.

The French authority sent a so-called statement of objections in July regarding antitrust practices in the liquefied petroleum gas market, Total and UGI said in separate US Securities and Exchange Commission filings. Shell's French unit, Butagaz, received a complaint as well.

"We are studying the objections," Lisa Wyler, a spokeswoman for Paris-based Total, said.

Total and its units have been fined in at least three other cartels. Antitrust fines in France can be as much as 10 per cent of annual revenue and fines can be increased for repeat offenders. UGI's Antargaz unit in France holds about a quarter of the country's butane market, according to its website.

"Butagaz has received a statement about alleged anti-competitive practices in the LPG sector, the camping bottles," said a Shell spokesperson. "Butagaz has cooperated with the competition authorities throughout the process. The company will now carefully review the statement."

The European Commission, the European Union's antitrust regulator, in 2005 fined Total's Atofina unit, now called Arkema, 58.5 million euros (Dh305.71 million) for rigging prices of monochloroacetic acid, a chemical used in detergents.

In 2006, the commission levied a 20.3 million-euro penalty against Total for fixing the price of bitumen, which is used in road construction. The EU regulator fined Total 128.1 million euros last year for fixing the price of paraffin wax.

Total has filed appeals in all three penalties at the European Court of First Instance.