September 3, 2003
Euro investigators probe ferry operators
Following press inquires, the European Commission's spokesperson for Competition confirmed that Commission officials today carried out simultaneous unannounced inspections at the premises of a number of operators of cross-Channel transport services. The officials were assisted by officials of the EU Member States' concerned.
In a separate statement, the spokesperson also confirmed that Commission inspectors assisted by officials from National Competition Authoritiesalso carried out simultaneous unannounced inspections at the premises of a number of ferry operators located in Sweden, Denmark and Germany.
The purpose of the cross-Channel operator inspections is to ascertain whether there is evidence of suspected cartel agreement and related illegal practices concerning fixing of prices and trade conditions for cross-Channel transport services. The purpose is also to ascertain whether there is evidence of suspected market sharing agreements in relation to the provision of ferry services to and from the U.K. .
The purpose of the Nordic ferry operator inspections is to ascertain whether there is evidence of suspected market sharing agreements and related illegal practices aimed at foreclosing competition and preventing access to the Nordic Ferry market.
Surprise inspections are a preliminary step in investigations into suspected cartels. The fact that the European Commission carries out such inspections does not mean that the companies are guilty of anti-competitive behaviour nor does it prejudge the outcome of the investigation itself. The European Commission says that it respects the rights of defense, in particular the right of companies to be heard in antitrust proceedings.
There is no strict deadline to complete cartel inquiries. Their duration depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of each case, the exercise of the right of defense and by the respect of the European Commission's consultation and other procedures.