European Commission Probes Anti-competitive Practices in Electricity Sector

European Commission officials undertook unannounced inspections at the premises of companies active in managing power exchanges in several Member States on February 7th 2012. Power exchanges provide services that facilitate electricity trading at wholesale level. The Commission has concerns that the companies concerned may have violated European antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices.

The Commission officials were accompanied by their counterparts from the relevant national competition authorities. Commission officials also participated in unannounced inspections carried out by the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) in the same case. ESA is responsible for enforcing the EEA competition rules in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

Unannounced inspections are a preliminary step into suspected anticompetitive practices. The fact that the 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.

There is no legal deadline to complete inquiries into anticompetitive conduct. Their duration depends on a number of factors, including 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.

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