Germany's natural gas suppliers signed a pact that will increase access for rivals to the pipeline network in Europe's largest economy and allow all customers to choose their supplier from next year. The agreement, which will take effect in October and last a year, will make it easier for foreign rivals such as BP to access Germany's gas pipeline network and take market share from the incumbents such as Ruhrgas and RWE. "I expect the agreement to simplify third-party access and make cost calculation more transparent," said Economics Minister Werner Mueller in a faxed statement. "Those are the conditions needed for effective competition on the gas market and will in the end also benefit consumers." The pact is part of European Union directives to increase competition in the region's $75 billion natural gas industry and reduce prices for businesses and customers by breaking up former monopolies such as Eni and Gaz de France.