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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 13 July 2012

Antitrust: Commission sends statement of objections to suspected participants in North Sea shrimps cartel

The European Commission has informed four traders of North Sea shrimps of its preliminary view that they may have infringed EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels. The Commission has concerns that these companies may have colluded to fix prices and allocate markets and customers at least in the Netherlands, Germany, France and Belgium The sending of a statement of objections does not prejudge the final outcome of the investigation.

In March 2009, the Commission carried out unannounced inspections at premises of a number of producers of North Sea shrimps (see MEMO/09/142). The Commission does not reveal the name of the companies at this stage as it respects the rights of defence and the presumption of innocence.

This investigation concerns the food sector which has been identified as a priority sector for the action of both competition authorities in Europe and the European Commission in order to ensure that food markets work for suppliers and consumers alike (see IP/12/502).

Procedural background

A Statement of Objections is a formal step in Commission investigations into suspected violations of EU rules on restrictive business practices (Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union - TFEU). The Commission informs the parties concerned in writing of the objections raised against them and the companies can examine the documents on the Commission’s investigation file, reply in writing and request an oral hearing to present their comments on the case before representatives of the Commission and national competition authorities.

The duration of cartel investigations varies according to the complexity of the case, the number of markets and companies involved and whether they cooperate with the Commission.

If, after the parties have exercised their rights of defence, the Commission concludes that there is sufficient evidence of an infringement, it can issue a decision prohibiting the conduct and impose a fine of up to 10% of a company's annual worldwide turnover. This is without prejudice to a company's ability to receive immunity for being the first to reveal information about a cartel or to receive a reduction of its fine for supplying evidence of significant added value, according to the Commission's Leniency Notice.

Contacts :

Antoine Colombani (+32 2 297 45 13)

Marisa Gonzalez Iglesias (+32 2 295 19 25)

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