The European Commission can confirm that on 6 September 2012 Commission officials carried out unannounced inspections at the premises of several providers of maritime transport services for cars and construction and agricultural rolling machinery. Inspections took place in several Member States in coordination with the US and Japanese Competition Authorities. The Commission has reasons to believe that the companies concerned may have violated Article 101 of the TFEU, which prohibits cartels and restrictive business practices.
Unannounced inspections are a preliminary step in investigations into suspected cartels. The fact that the European 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. The European 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 cartel inquiries. Their duration depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of each case, the extent to which the undertakings concerned co-operate and the exercise of the rights of defence.
Source: European Commission