The European Commission can confirm that on 24 March 2015, Commission officials undertook unannounced inspections at the premises of companies active in the production or trading of bioethanol. 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 authorities.
The products concerned are bioethanol used as a biofuel additive in the production of petrochemical fuels or as an ingredient used in, for example the production of beverages, pharmaceutical products (e.g. wipes, antibacterial materials), chemical products (e.g. solvents) or cosmetics (e.g. perfumes). The investigation should clarify the facts concerning the possible participation by producers or traders of bioethanol in agreements or concerted practices aimed at fixing prices or sharing markets and customers.
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.