The European Commission has closed an antitrust investigation on ethanol producers and traders launched in 2015, consisting of unannounced inspections of the operators’ premises.
According to Argus Media on 18 April, the closure of the investigation did not prevent the Commission from re-opening it at a later date if it saw fit to reassess its position.
Explaining why the investigation came to an end, Commission spokeswoman Lucia Caudet said the Commission wanted to “focus its limited resources on the cases that promise the greatest merit from a public enforcement perspective”.
The Commission did not name companies involved in the investigation, but Argus reported that premises belonging to Spanish ethanol producer Abengoa and French trading company Tereos were raided in April 2015.
A statement from the Commission on 21 April 2015 confirmed that it carried out an unannounced inspection “in Spain at the premises of a company active in the production, distribution and trading of ethanol”.
At the time, Abengoa was the largest ethanol producer in Europe.
The Commission said at the time that it was concerned that price benchmarks had been distorted through anti-competitive behaviour, including possible collusion in reported price information.
The unannounced inspections were described as a preliminary step to investigations into suspected anti-competitive practices.
“The fact that the Commission carries out such inspections does not mean that the companies are guilty … nor does it prejudge the outcome of the investigation itself,” the Commission said at the time.
There was no legal deadline for the completion of the inquiries and the Commission in April 2015 said their duration depended on a number of factors, including the complexity of each case, the extent to which the companies concerned were ready to cooperate with the investigation and their exercise of their right of defence.