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Car recyclers quizzed in anti-competition investigation

The European Commission has conducted unannounced inspections at the premises of companies and associations active in the automotive sector amid concerns of anti-competitive activities and restrictive business practices.

At the same time, Britain’s competition and markets authority has also launched an investigation into suspected anti-competitive conduct in relation to the recycling of end-of-life vehicles (ELVs). In a press release, the Commission said it had sent formal requests for information to several companies active in the automotive sector.

‘The inspections and requests for information concern possible collusion in relation to the collection, treatment and recovery of end-of-life cars and vans which are considered waste,’ it said. ‘The Commission has concerns that several companies and associations may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices.

Commission officials were accompanied on the inspections by counterparts from the relevant national competition authorities and were carried out in coordination with the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

For its part, the CMA said it had reason to suspect anti-competitive behaviour had taken place involving a number of vehicle manufacturers and some industry bodies.

‘This conduct relates to arrangements for recycling old or written-off vehicles, specifically cars and vans, which are known in the industry as ‘end-of-life vehicles’ or ELVs.

‘ELVs are vehicles that are categorised as waste, generally due to age-related failure or accident, and regulation requires these vehicles to be disposed of in a sustainable way. Vehicle manufactures must offer their customers a free service for recycling ELVs, a service manufacturers often outsource to third parties.’

Unannounced inspections and requests for information are seen as a preliminary investigatory step into suspected anticompetitive practices. The Commission says carrying out inspections and asking for information does not mean that the companies are guilty of anti-competitive behaviour nor does it prejudge the outcome of the investigation itself.

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