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Brussels, 25 February 2010
Antitrust: Commission confirms investigation into suspected cartel in the sector of automotive electrical and electronic components suppliers
The European Commission can confirm that, starting on 24 February 2010, Commission officials carried out unannounced inspections in several Member States at the premises of companies active in the sector of automotive electrical distribution systems (sometimes referred to as wiring harnesses) and of other components for automotive electronic and electrical distribution systems. The Commission has reason to believe that the companies concerned may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices (Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union – TFEU and Article 53 of the Agreement on the European Economic Area). The Commission's investigation is being coordinated with several other competition authorities worldwide
Wire harnesses are generally considered the "central nervous system" of a car, linking the car's computers to the various relevant functions in the vehicle.
The Commission officials were accompanied by their counterparts from the relevant national competition authorities.
Surprise inspections are a preliminary step 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.