On 28 November, the Spanish Competition Commission (CNC) announced on its website that it has carried out surprise inspections at the premises of several companies active in the fire-protection systems sector in Spain. The press release does not indicate at this stage the number or identity of the companies being investigated. The CNC states that it suspects that the companies have operated a cartel agreement consisting of fixing prices and sharing markets.
The CNC imposed fines on several manufacturers of fire-protection systems in June 2011 in the Fluid Pumps cartel case S/0185/10, in which MARELLI submitted a leniency application and was awarded full immunity regarding the fine of 1 million euro that would otherwise have been imposed. Leniency applications and third party complaints are the main sources of information which allow the CNC to pursue a dawn raid.
Dawn raids are one of the most effective instruments used by the CNC in its fight against cartel agreements in Spain. In practice, most of the incriminating evidence used by the CNC is obtained at the inspections when inspectors copy most of the documentation available on the computers of the employees being investigated. It is not uncommon for the CNC to conduct new inspections once it reviews the evidence obtained from a dawn raid.
In 2012, there have been seven other cases in which the CNC has published the existence of dawn raids in a very wide number of sectors such as elastomeric foam, waste treatment services, wood pallets, dairy products, travel agencies and raw cotton.
After the dawn raids, the CNC usually opens infringement proceedings. Although the CNC may initiate proceedings on the same date that the inspections take place, the initiation normally takes between one to two months from the day of the inspection. Once the CNC opens proceedings it issues a press release revealing the identity of the companies involved in the investigation.