The Commission suspects a violation of antitrust rules by the companies in question. At the moment the Commission has not publicly disclosed the exact nature of the suspected infringements.
For the record, there are two categories of antitrust prohibitions:
- cartels and other business associations which are prohibited under Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union;
- abuses of dominant position which are prohibited under Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
The dawn raids were carried out by the Commission officials, together with representatives of the national competition authorities.
The press releases do not provide any additional information besides an assurance that these preliminary steps of the inquiries will not prejudice the outcome of the investigation and that the rights of defense will be respected, especially the right to be heard.
The total duration of the investigations will depend on a number of factors, such as the complexity of the factual background of the case, and the extent to which the parties will cooperate with the Commission.
For your information, the legal basis of the Commission’s powers of inspection is Article 20 of Regulation 1/2003 on the implementation of the rules on competition laid down in Articles (101) and (102) of the Treaty.
Among others things, the Commission is entitled to enter premises, analyze business books and records, copy them, and question representatives and workers of the companies. In order to do so, the officials must produce a written authorization which details the subject matter and purpose of the investigation.
Undertakings must comply with the inspection orders, otherwise penalties specified in Articles 23 and 24 of Regulation 1/2003 can be imposed, with a right of appeal before the European Court of Justice.
The Commission published an explanatory note on the undertakings' rights and obligations during the inspections.