January 30, 2008
EC antitrust inspectors raid classification societies
The European Commission today released a statement confirming that on 29th and 30th January 2008 Commission officials carried out unannounced inspections at the premises of several providers of ship classification services and an association of such providers.
The Commission officials were accompanied by their counterparts from national competition authorities.
The Commission says it "has reason to believe that the companies and the association concerned [which, though unnamed in the statement is, of course, IACS] may have violated the competition rules of the EC Treaty and the EEA Agreement that outlaw restrictive business practices. Providers of such classification services certify whether ships are in conformity with technical standards for design and maintenance."
Commission officials also participated in unannounced inspections at the premises of a provider of ship classification services that were carried out by the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA).
The Commission says that surprise inspections are a preliminary step in investigations into suspected anticompetitive business practices. The fact that the European Commission carries out such inspections does not mean that the companies or association are guilty of anti-competitive behaviur 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 or associations to be heard in antitrust proceedings.
There is no strict deadline for the Commission to complete inquiries into restrictive business practices. Their duration depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of each case, the extent to which the undertakings or associations concerned cooperate and the exercise of the rights of defense.