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Brussels, 10 October 2002

Statement on inspections at producers of rubber chemicals

Following press inquiries, the European Commission's spokesperson for competition has confirmed that on 26 September 2002, a number of Commission inspectors assisted by officials of the Member States concerned have carried out unannounced inspections at the premises of a number of rubber chemicals producers in several European countries.

The purpose of these inspections is to ascertain whether there is evidence of a cartel agreement and related illegal practices concerning price fixing for rubber chemicals. These rubber chemicals are used mainly as productivity and quality enhancers in the manufacture of vehicle tyres.

Surprise inspections are a preliminary step in investigations into suspected cartels. The fact that the Commission carries out such inspections does not mean that the companies are guilty of anti-competitive behaviour nor does it prejudge the outcome of the investigation itself. The Commission respects the right of companies to be heard in antitrust proceedings.

Finally, there is no strict deadline to complete cartel inquiries. Their duration is determined largely by the complexity of each case, the exercise of the right of defence and by the respect of the Commission's consultation and other procedures.

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