In a significant development, the European Commission has initiated unannounced inspections at the premises of companies engaged in the online ordering and delivery of food, groceries, and other consumer goods in two member states.
The inspections are part of an ongoing investigation into potential violations of EU antitrust rules, specifically focusing on cartels and restrictive business practices prohibited under Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
The inspections mark a continuation of the Commission’s efforts, following earlier inspections conducted in 2022. Commission officials, joined by counterparts from relevant national competition authorities, are now broadening the scope of their investigation.
Initially centered around alleged market allocations, the inquiry has expanded to include additional concerns related to alleged no-poach agreements and exchanges of commercially sensitive information.
Unannounced inspections serve as a preliminary step in investigating suspected anticompetitive practices. It is crucial to note that the Commission’s actions do not imply guilt on the part of the companies targeted, and they do not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.
The timeline for completing inquiries into anticompetitive conduct lacks a legal deadline and varies based on factors such as case complexity, the level of cooperation from the involved companies, and the exercise of defense rights.
The Commission’s leniency program provides an avenue for companies involved in secret cartels to receive immunity from fines or substantial reductions in fines. This is contingent upon reporting the conduct and cooperating fully with the Commission throughout its investigation. Notably, individuals and companies can report cartel or other anti-competitive behavior anonymously through the Commission’s whistle-blower tool. Additional information on the Commission’s leniency program and whistle-blower tool is available on DG Competition’s website.
As the investigation unfolds, stakeholders and the public will be keenly observing the proceedings, given the potential impact on the competitive landscape within the online ordering and delivery sector in the European Union.
Source: EU Reporter