On 20 March 2023, the European Commission has started unannounced inspections at the premises of a company active in the energy drinks sector in various Member States.
The Commission has concerns that the inspected company may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices (Article 101 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (‘TFEU’) and Article 53 of the European Economic Area Agreement (‘EEA’)). The inspected company may also have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit abuses of a dominant position (Article 102 of the TFEU and Article 54 of the EEA).
The Commission officials were accompanied by their counterparts from the national competition authorities of the Member States where the inspections were carried out.
Unannounced inspections are a preliminary step in an investigation into suspected anticompetitive practices. The fact that the Commission carries out such inspections does not mean that the company is guilty of anti-competitive behaviour, nor does it prejudge the outcome of the investigation itself. The Commission respects the rights of defence, in particular the right of companies to be heard in antitrust proceedings.
There is no legal deadline to complete inquiries into anticompetitive conduct. Their duration depends on several factors, including the complexity of each case, the extent to which the undertakings concerned cooperate with the Commission and the scope of the exercise of the rights of defence.
Under the Commission’s leniency programme companies that have been involved in a secret cartel may be granted immunity from fines or significant reductions in fines in return for reporting the conduct and cooperating with the Commission throughout its investigation. Individuals and companies can report cartel or other anti-competitive behaviour on an anonymous basis through the Commission’s whistle-blower tool. Further information on the Commission’s leniency programme and whistle-blower tool is available on DG Competition’s website.