EC to investigate anticompetitive practices in automotive exhaust sector

Only days after five companies were fined a total of €953 million for participating in a cartel within the automotive bearing market, the European Commission has reported its concerns that a number of companies in the automotive exhaust systems segment may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels, restrictive business practices and/or abuse of a dominant market position. On 25 March, officials from the European Commission undertook unannounced inspections at the premises of companies active in this sector. The Commission officials were accompanied by their counterparts from the relevant national competition authorities.

These unannounced inspections are considered a preliminary step into suspected anticompetitive practices. The European Commission stresses that the fact it 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 companies that were subject to inspection will not be made public at this stage.

The European Commission states it has no legal deadline for completing its inquiries; their duration will depend on factors that include the complexity of each case, the extent to which the undertakings concerned co-operate with the Commission and the exercise of the rights of defence. A focus for the inquiries is whether Articles 101 and 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union have been violated.

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