European Commission’s powers of inspection (dawn raids) and the rights of defence
Produced in partnership with Dentons
European Commission’s powers of inspection (dawn raids) and the rights of defence

The following Competition practice note Produced in partnership with Dentons provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • European Commission’s powers of inspection (dawn raids) and the rights of defence
  • Two types of inspections
  • Content of inspection decisions
  • The Commission’s powers of inspection
  • Limits to the Commission’s powers of inspection
  • Duty of active cooperation during inspections
  • Penalties
  • Rights of defence
  • Legal representation
  • Right against self-incrimination
  • More...

The European Commission has been granted broad investigative powers to review suspected anti-competitive conduct (including conduct contrary to Articles 101 and 102 TFEU as well suspected breaches of the EU Merger Regulation). Among others, the Commission has the power to conduct unannounced inspections at the premises of any undertaking located in the EEA.

Two types of inspections

Article 20 of Regulation 1/2003 provides for two types of inspections ('dawn raids'), namely:

  1. inspections based on a binding decision, to which undertakings are legally required to submit. If not, they risk being forced to comply and incurring penalties, and

  2. inspections based on a written authorisation, to which undertakings may refuse to submit without risking the imposition of penalties. There can be no partial or conditional submission to such inspections. The fact that undertakings have the right to object to them does not mean that (if they agree to be subject to them) the inspections will be conducted in a less robust manner than inspections based on a Commission decision

These two types of inspection constitute alternative options for the Commission, and not parts of a two-stage process (ie there is no requirement that a decision-based inspection only takes place after an attempt to inspect the undertakings on the basis of a written authorisation). The type of inspection opted for is upon the Commission’s discretion. Inspections conducted in the context

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