The EU’s highest court (the Court of Justice (ECJ)) has confirmed the EC’s wide competition law dawn raid powers. Similar principles will generally apply to raids by national competition authorities in the EU. Companies need to be aware of these powers and to train staff appropriately since significant fines can be imposed for failure to cooperate with dawn raids.
In a judgment of 25 June 2014, the ECJ confirmed that, when undertaking a dawn raid, the EC is obliged to indicate as precisely as possible the evidence sought and the matters to which the investigation relates. However, it is not required to define precisely the relevant market, to set out the exact legal nature of the presumed infringements or to indicate the period during which those infringements were committed.
This is justified by the fact that, since dawn raids take place at the beginning of an investigation, the EC by definition lacks precise information allowing it to make a specific legal assessment of the potential competition law infringement. It must first verify the accuracy of its suspicions and the scope of the incidents which have taken place. The aim of the inspection is specifically to gather evidence relating to a suspected infringement.