On 1 March 2018, the Belgian and French Competition Authorities confirmed dawn raids on distributors of cosmetic goods in Belgium and France. Both inspections were authorized by a magistrate. For legal defence reasons, the distributors have not been named.

The investigation concerns possible infringements of Article IV.1 of the Code of Economic Law and/or Article 101 of TFEU, which prohibit agreements between undertakings that distort or threaten to distort competition, such as price cartels, retail price maintenance and exchange of confidential information between competitors.

In many cases, these inspections follow a leniency request by one of the cartel parties concerned, which can entail a total waiver of the fine.

The Authorities will now assess the documents seized and proceed with their investigations, which could result in fines of up to 10% of the groups’ global turnovers.

The Investigation and Prosecution Service of the Belgian Competition Authority has recently hired new staff, so is now better equipped to perform its duties.

Dawn raids are on the increase. Last year, the Belgian Competition Authority inspected manufacturers and wholesalers of tobacco products, an undertaking distributing and selling cooking utensils and wine accessories, and an undertaking distributing and selling water softeners.

Undertakings can no longer ignore this legal risk!