Antitrust: Commission carries out unannounced inspections in the water infrastructure sector over alleged bid-rigging

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This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.


The European Commission is conducting unannounced inspections in a Member State at the premises of companies active in the construction of networks and treatment plants for drinking water and wastewater.

The Commission has concerns that certain companies may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices (Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union). The Commission officials were accompanied by their counterparts from the relevant national competition authority.

The inspections concern an alleged case of bid-rigging in tenders involving EU funds for the construction of networks and treatment plants for drinking water and wastewater.

Unannounced inspections are a preliminary investigatory step into suspected anticompetitive practices. 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.

The inspections have been conducted in compliance with all coronavirus health and safety protocols to ensure the security of those involved.

There is no legal deadline to complete inquiries into anticompetitive conduct. Their duration depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of each case, the extent to which the companies and associations concerned co-operate with the Commission and 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 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.

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