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Brussels, 13 May 2004

Spokesperson's Statement on investigation in the Gas Insulated Switchgear sector

Following press inquiries, the European Commission's spokesperson for Competition has confirmed that, on 11 and 12 May 2004, Commission inspectors, assisted by officials from the national competition authorities of the Member States concerned, launched simultaneous unannounced inspections at the premises of some of the major European producers of gas insulated switchgear (GIS).

The purpose of these inspections is to ascertain whether there is evidence of a cartel agreement and related illegal practices concerning bid rigging, exchange of sensitive price information and of information about the prices quoted for projects, and/or geographic market allocation.

Gas insulated switchgear (GIS) is a heavy electrical equipment which is used as a major component for turnkey power substations. GIS are used to control energy flow in electricity grids. Main customers for GIS are state-owned public utilities, municipalities, and to a minor extent (around 25%) also private companies.

Surprise inspections are a preliminary step in investigations into suspected cartels. The fact that the European 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 European Commission respects the rights of defence, in particular the right of companies to be heard in antitrust proceedings.

There is no strict deadline to complete cartel inquiries. Their duration depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of each case, the extent to which the undertakings concerned co-operate and the exercise of the rights of defence.

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