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Brussels, 20 June 2008
The European Commission can confirm that on 17, 18 and 19 June 2008 Commission officials carried out unannounced inspections at the premises of several producers of consumer detergents such as washing machine and dishwasher detergents, and laundry softeners. The Commission has reason to believe that the companies concerned may have violated EC Treaty rules on restrictive business practices and cartels (Article 81), which prohibit practices such as price fixing.
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.