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Brussels, 30 January 2008
The European Commission can confirm that on 29th – 30th January 2008 Commission officials carried out unannounced inspections at the premises of several providers of ship classification services and an association of such providers. The Commission has reason to believe that the companies and the association concerned may have violated the competition rules of the EC Treaty and the EEA Agreement that outlaw restrictive business practices. Providers of such classification services certify whether ships are in conformity with technical standards for design and maintenance.
The Commission officials were accompanied by their counterparts from national competition authorities.
Commission officials also participated in unannounced inspections at the premises of a provider of ship classification services that were carried out by the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA).
Surprise inspections are a preliminary step in investigations into suspected anticompetitive business practices. The fact that the European Commission carries out such inspections does not mean that the companies or association 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 or associations to be heard in antitrust proceedings.
There is no strict deadline to complete inquiries into restrictive business practices. Their duration depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of each case, the extent to which the undertakings or associations concerned co-operate and the exercise of the rights of defence.