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Brussels, 25 March 2014
Antitrust: Commission confirms unannounced inspections in the sector of automotive exhaust systems
The European Commission can confirm that on 25 March 2014 Commission officials undertook unannounced inspections at the premises of companies active in the automotive exhaust systems industry in several Member States. The Commission has concerns that the companies concerned may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices and/or abuse of a dominant market position (Articles 101 and 102 respectively of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).
The Commission officials were accompanied by their counterparts from the relevant national competition authorities.
Exhaust systems for vehicles are composed of the "hot end" and "cold end". The components of the "hot end" include in particular the exhaust manifold, catalytic converter, converters, as well as (in case of vehicles with Diesel engine) Diesel Oxidation Catalyst (DOC) and Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF). The "cold end" comprises in particular the mufflers and tubes.
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. The Commission does not make public the names of the companies inspected at this stage.
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.