On 17 October 2023, the Commission announced that its officials had conducted dawn raids in relation to potential antitrust violations committed by companies in the construction chemicals sector. On the same date, the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (the CMA) announced that it had also launched an investigation into the construction chemicals sector. The Commission’s press release confirmed that its inspections were undertaken in coordination with the CMA, as well as the Turkish Competition Authority, with input also being received from the United States Department of Justice.
Dawn raids have formed an important part of the Commission’s and CMA’s toolkit where they suspect anti-competitive conduct. This latest dawn raid is indicative of the Commission's increased appetite to conduct such inspections following a slow-down in recent years and exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Commission has undertaken a number of raids in 2023 so far across sectors such as energy drinks, fashion, synthetic turf manufacturing and cardio-vascular medical devices.
This is not the first time this year that the CMA has conducted a dawn raid in parallel with the Commission – it did so in relation to the fragrances sector earlier in the year. Whilst cooperation between antitrust authorities is not new (the Commission regularly shares information with other competition regulators), this latest raid is another example of increasing antitrust cooperation between the Commission and the CMA post-Brexit.
The impact of the Commission’s increased propensity for dawn raids and the involvement of the CMA in conducting parallel raids remains to be seen. However, this increase in dawn raids and the cooperation between authorities serves as a reminder for businesses to ensure that their dawn raid procedures are updated, including to verify that any protocols are adapted to address agile working arrangements following the Covid-19 pandemic (e.g. to ensure that individuals know how to react and cooperate with authorities should officials turn up at their homes). Failure to do so can result in businesses facing penalties for non-compliance with the procedural requirements of a dawn raid (in addition to significant fines and potential director disqualifications for the underlying conduct).