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Brussels, 4th July 2007
The European Commission can confirm that on 3rd-4th July 2007 Commission officials undertook unannounced inspections at the premises of different producers of hardware for windows and doors in several Member States of the European Union. Hardware for windows and doors is the metal equipment used for the fastening, handling and locking of windows and doors, including for instance bolts, handles, locks and hinges. The Commission has reason to believe that the companies concerned may have violated Article 81 of the EC Treaty.
The Commission officials were accompanied by their counterparts from the relevant national competition authorities.
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.