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EU Investigates Potential Maritime Sector Cartels

by Ulrika Lomas, Tax-News.com, Brussels

19 September 2012


The European Commission has confirmed that it has carried out a number of unannounced inspections of providers of maritime transport services to the vehicle manufacturing industry to ascertain whether the businesses concerned have violated competition laws that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices.

The inspections, undertaken on September 6, 2012, were as part of an investigation into whether the companies are in violation of Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which specifically outlaws business practices that may restrict competition. The Commission's action was undertaken in conjunction with the US and Japanese competition authorities.

The Commission undertakes unannounced inspections as a preliminary step in investigations into suspected cartels. Such investigations have no legal deadline for completion, and under such a process the Commission is empowered to:

  • Enter premises, land and means of transport of undertakings and associations of undertakings;
  • Enter any other premises, land and means of transport of undertakings and associations of undertakings, including the homes of directors, managers or other staff members, if a reasonable suspicion exists that books or other records related to the business and to the subject-matter of the inspection might be held there;
  • Examine the books and other records related to the business;
  • Take copies of or extracts from such books or records;
  • Seal any business premises and books or records for the period of the inspection;
  • Ask any representative or member of staff of the undertaking or association of undertakings for information and record their answers.

If a business or group of businesses is found to have contravened EU law, the Commission may impose penalties not exceeding 10% of the annual turnover of the concerned business for each year it has contravened Article 101 or Article 102 of the TFEU, on a one-off basis, or periodic fines no greater than 5% of the business's annual turnover.

TAGS: business | marine | European Commission | law | enforcement | United States | standards | penalties | European Union (EU) | Japan | Europe

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