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Brussels, 7 February 2012

Antitrust: Commission confirms unannounced inspections in the electricity sector

The European Commission can confirm that on 7 February 2012 Commission officials undertook unannounced inspections at the premises of companies active in managing power exchanges in several Member States. Power exchanges provide services that facilitate electricity trading at wholesale level. The Commission has concerns that the companies concerned may have violated European antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices (Articles 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union – TFEU - and Article 53 of the Agreement on the European Economic Area - EEA1).

The Commission officials were accompanied by their counterparts from the relevant national competition authorities.

Commission officials also participated in unannounced inspections carried out by the EFTA2 Surveillance Authority (ESA)3 in the same case.

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.

1 :

The EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

2 :

European Free Trade Association.

3 :

ESA is responsible for enforcing the EEA competition rules in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

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