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Brussels, 18th February 2009
The European Commission can confirm that on 17 February 2009 Commission officials carried out unannounced inspections at the premises of producers of compressors, used mainly for domestic refrigeration and freezers and commercial refrigeration. Inspections took place in several Member States. The Commission has reason to believe that the companies concerned may have violated EC Treaty rules on restrictive business practices (Article 81), which prohibits practices such as price fixing and customer allocation.
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 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 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 Commission antitrust 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.