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Brussels, 13 July 2012
Antitrust: Commission confirms unannounced inspections in the sector of thermal systems for cars
The European Commission can confirm that on 22 May 2012 Commission officials undertook unannounced inspections at the premises of companies active in the thermal systems and related products industry. Thermal systems are air conditioning and engine cooling products sold to car manufacturers. The Commission has concerns 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).
The Commission officials were accompanied by their counterparts from the relevant national competition authority.
This inspection is part of a wider ongoing investigation that the Commission is carrying out into alleged cartels in the car parts sector. Previous inspections related to wire harnesses (see MEMO/10/49), occupant safety systems (see MEMO/11/395) and bearings (see MEMO/11/766).
Unannounced inspections are a preliminary step into suspected anticompetitive practices. 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 legal 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.