Commencement of investigation

How is an investigation into a suspected breach of competition law started?

The Hellenic Competition Commission (HCC) can start an investigation into a suspected breach of competition law on its own initiative, or following a complaint filed by any third party.

The HCC operates a digital whistleblowing tool allowing anonymous reporting of breaches of competition law.

Limitation period

What are the limitation periods for investigation of competition infringements?

The power of the HCC to impose sanctions is subject to a five-year limitation period starting from the day on which the infringement was committed or, in the case of continuing or repeated infringements, from the day on which the infringement ceased.  

The above limitation period is interrupted by any action taken by the HCC, the European Commission or the competition authority of any member state relating to the infringement. The interruption is effected from the date of notification of any such action to at least one of the participating undertakings and it applies to all participating undertakings. Following each interruption, the limitation period starts running afresh. This period can be extended by any time during which the limitation period is suspended, that is, for as long as the HCC decision or any other act relating to the infringement is subject to any court proceedings. However, the limitation period expires after 10 years of the HCC failing to impose a fine.

According to Law 3959/2011 (the Competition Law), the limitation period also applies to infringements that took place before its entry into force (20 April 2011) and have not been the subject of a complaint, an ex officio investigation by the HCC, or a request for an investigation by the Minister of Economy.

The Amending Act introduced a provision specifying that the lapse of the limitation period does not restrict HCC’s power to issue a decision finding a breach of the Competition Law.

Information-gathering powers

What powers does the competition authority have to gather information?

During an investigation, the HCC can request information and oral clarifications from any person, undertaking or public authority. Such information must be provided in the form specified by the HCC, including digital forms. The HCC has also the power to take sworn or unsworn testimonies and to request, subject to the principle of proportionality, the lifting of the confidentiality of communications, if there is reasonable suspicion that a breach of articles 1 or 2 has been committed. In case of failure to comply with the HCC request or if inaccurate or incomplete information is provided, the HCC can impose administrative fines as follows:

  • upon the undertaking: fines of up to 3 per cent of the average daily aggregate worldwide turnover of the undertakings during the year preceding the issuance of the HCC decision per day of delay in complying with the HCC request; and
  • upon the undertaking’s managers and employees: fines between €15,000 and €30,000 per day of delay in complying with the HCC request.


Failure to provide the information requested, hindering the provision of that information or knowingly providing false information or concealing information are also criminal offences punishable with imprisonment between six months and five years.

Dawn raids

For what types of infringement will the competition authority launch a dawn raid? Are there any specific procedural rules for dawn raids?

The HCC launches dawn raids on the basis of priority criteria established by the HCC. Such criteria include the gravity of the alleged infringement (such as price-fixing or market sharing), the type of the agreement (priority being given to horizontal over vertical agreements), the geographical scope of the infringement, the power of the undertakings concerned, the importance for the consumers of the products or services concerned and existing evidence. 

To conduct a dawn raid the HCC officials must obtain written authorisation from the chairman or another official appointed by him or her specifying with sufficient clarity the subject matter and purpose of the inspection and the penalties provided in the Competition Law for impeding or obstructing the inspection or refusing to present requested books, information or documents.

The HCC officials have the powers of tax inspectors and can, among other things:

  • inspect and take copies or extracts of any kind of books, records, documents and electronic business correspondence, irrespective of the place where they are stored;
  • seize books, records, documents and electronic means of storage and transport of business data;
  • examine and collect information and data from mobile terminals, portable devices, their servers and the computing cloud;
  • conduct searches at the business premises and means of transport of the undertakings concerned;
  • seal business premises and books or records for the period and to the extent necessary for the inspection;
  • conduct searches at any other places and means of transport, including the homes of managers, directors and staff of the undertakings concerned;
  • take sworn or unsworn testimonies; and
  • ask for explanations of facts or documents and record the answers.


There are no published rules on digital searches. In practice, HCC officials largely follow the rules and procedure followed by the European Commission. All documents or data copied during an inspection are listed in relevant minutes signed by the HCC officials and the company representatives. Copies of any hard documents taken are attached in the minutes. Electronic data and digital signatures of files (ie, MD5 hashes) are copied in a data carrier, a copy of which is left with the company while the data carrier itself is put in an envelope that is closed, signed and sealed with the company’s seal. This data carrier is taken by the HCC officials and it is opened at the HCC premises in the presence of company representatives. 

Following completion of the dawn raid, the HCC prepares a relevant report containing a description of the procedure together with any objections or remarks made by the company, which is notified to the company.

Dawn raids – rights and obligations

What are the company’s rights and obligations during a dawn raid?

The company has the obligation to cooperate fully and actively with the inspection within the scope of the inspection order. It must provide appropriate representatives or staff to assist the inspectors and provide access to the areas, offices and computers, as requested. The company must not hinder the conduct of the investigation or conceal any material and it must inform all employees accordingly. 

Before submitting to an inspection, the company has the right to request the inspectors produce their identification documents and the relevant written authorisation. The company’s external lawyers may be present at all stages of the inspection; however, this is not a legal condition for the validity of the inspection. HCC inspectors are normally willing to accept a reasonable delay for the consultation with the arrival of an external lawyer. The company may invoke legal privilege or privilege against self-incrimination. It also has the right to raise objections or make remarks that must be recorded in the relevant minutes.

Refusal to cooperate

What are the penalties and other consequences for refusing to cooperate with the authorities during an investigation?

In case of failure to provide the information requested or hindering the conduct of investigations, the HCC can impose administrative fines as follows:

  • upon the undertaking: fines of up to 3 per cent of the average daily aggregate worldwide turnover of the undertakings during the year preceding the issuance of the HCC decision per day of non compliance;
  • upon the undertaking’s employees: fines between €5,000 and €2,000,000;
  • upon third persons: fines between €15,000 and €2,000,000.

Fines cannot be less than the financial benefit derived from the breach, when it is possible to calculate such benefit.

Hindering the conduct of investigations or knowingly providing false information or concealing information are also criminal offences punishable by imprisonment for six months to five years.