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PR(03)02: Statement on EFTA Surveillance Authority inspections at operators of deep-sea maritime transport services


Following inquiries from journalists, the EFTA Surveillance Authority confirmed that on 19 February 2003, inspectors from the EFTA Surveillance Authority, assisted by officials from the European Commission and the Norwegian competition authority, carried out unannounced inspections at the premises of a number of operators of deep-sea maritime tanker services in Bergen, Norway.

The purpose of these inspections is to ascertain whether there is evidence of a cartel agreement and related illegal practices in conflict with Article 53 of the EEA Agreement and Article 81 of the EC Treaty in the field of deep-sea maritime transport.

The EFTA Surveillance Authority may undertake inspections on its own initiative or at the request of the European Commission, depending on the circumstances and on the possible allocation of jurisdiction under the EEA Agreement in each case.  The EFTA Surveillance Authority carried out the present inspections in Norway at the request of the European Commission, the latter being the competent surveillance authority under the EEA Agreement to review the evidence gathered in this case.  Information obtained by the Authority in Norway will thus be transmitted to the Commission.

Surprise inspections are a preliminary step in investigations into suspected cartels. The fact that such inspections are carried out 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 strict deadline to complete cartel inquiries. Their duration is determined largely by the complexity of each case, the exercise of the rights of defence, in particular the right of companies to be heard in antitrust proceedings, and by the observance of the competent surveillance authority's consultation and other procedures.

For further information please contact Ms. Anny Tubbs (Deputy Director for Competition) on tel. (32) (0)2 286 18 57.

Commission press release: Inspections in deep-sea maritime transport services

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