The European Commission (EC) has announced that its officials carried out unannounced inspections at the premises of several smart card chip producers in several member states in October 2008.
According to the EC, it believed the companies involved may have violated EC Treaty rules prohibiting practices such as price fixing, customer allocation and the exchange of commercially sensitive information.
Commission officials were accompanied by their counterparts from the national competition authorities.
The EC says: “Surprise inspections are a preliminary step in investigations into suspected cartels. 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."
It adds: there is no strict deadline to complete cartel inquiries. Their duration depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of each case, the extent to which the undertakings concerned cooperate and the exercise of the rights of defence.”
The EC has not named the firms involved in the inspections.