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Brussels, 24th February 2005
The European Commission confirms that on 22nd and 23rd February 2005 Commission officials carried out unannounced inspections at the premises of several European manufacturers of flat and car glass in Belgium, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Sweden (only relating to flat glass ) and Italy (only relating to car glass). The Commission has reason to believe that the manufacturers concerned may have (amongst other things) coordinated price-increases and agreed on the introduction of a so called “energy surcharge” in the area of flat glass. As regards car glass, the Commission has information indicating that car glass producers may have allocated customers and agreed on supply quotas and prices.
Flat glass is used principally for the manufacturing of glass products used by the building sector and in a processed form by the automotive industry. Car glass is used by the motor vehicle manufacturers for the production of new cars.
The Commission officials were accompanied by their counterparts from the relevant national competition authorities. In two Member States, the national competition authorities carried out the inspections on behalf of the Commission.
Surprise inspections are a preliminary step in investigations into suspected cartels, foreseen under Article 20 of the Council Regulation (1/2003) that lays down the procedures to be followed for the implementation of the EC Treaty’s rules on restrictive business practices and abuse of monopoly power (Articles 81 and 82). 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.
Article 81 of the EC Treaty prohibits agreements between undertakings, decisions by associations of undertakings and concerted practices which may affect trade between Member States and which have their object or effect the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition within the EU’s Single Market and in particular those which directly or indirectly fix prices; limit or control production, markets, technical development or investment; share markets or sources of supply; apply dissimilar conditions to equivalent transactions with other trading parties, thereby placing them at a competitive disadvantage; or make the conclusion of contracts subject to acceptance by the other parties of supplementary obligations which, by their nature or according to commercial usage, have no connection with the subject of such contracts.