Sélecteur de langues
Brussels, 12th December 2006
The European Commission can confirm that on 12 December 2006 Commission officials carried out unannounced inspections at the premises of electricity companies in Germany. The Commission has reason to believe that the companies concerned may have violated EC-Treaty antitrust rules that prohibit restrictive business practices and/or abuse of a dominant market position (Articles 81 and 82 respectively).
The Commission officials were accompanied by their counterparts from the German competition authority. The inspections are not related to the energy sector inspections in May 2006 (see MEMO/06/205 and MEMO/06/220). Nor are the inspections carried out as part of the energy sector competition inquiry, on which a preliminary report was presented on 16th February 2006 (see IP/06/174 and MEMO/06/78) and on which a definitive report is due to be presented in January 2007. The energy sector inquiry has allowed the Commission to gain an in-depth understanding on the functioning, and in some respects mal-functioning, of the energy sector, which is of key importance for the overall competitiveness of the European economy. The knowledge acquired during the sector inquiry has allowed the Commission to draw conclusions as regards where Commission action based on competition law could be appropriate and effective.
Surprise inspections are a preliminary step in investigations into suspected anticompetitive practices. 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 the Commission’s proceedings against them.
There is no strict deadline to complete inquiries into anticompetitive conduct. Their duration depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of each case, the extent to which the undertakings concerned co-operate with the Commission and the exercise of the rights of defence.