The European Commission on September 25 informed Slovak rail company ZSSK of its preliminary view that the company obstructed a Commission inspection by giving incorrect information and deleting data from a laptop. The inspection was part of an antitrust inquiry in the rail passenger transport sector.
“Companies have the obligation to provide correct information when we investigate,” said Margrethe Vestager, Commissioner in charge of competition policy. “Also during inspections. They should not tamper with the requested data in any way. Such behaviour would threaten the integrity and effectiveness of our investigations. We want to make sure that companies comply with our rules.”
According to a European Commission press release, the Commission carried out inspections at the ZSSK premises in June 2016. The Commission suspected that ZSSK may have entered into anti-competitive agreements aimed at shutting out competing rail passenger transport operators from the market, in breach of EU antitrust rules. The purpose of the ongoing inquiry is to verify whether these concerns have any merits and need to be followed up.
During an inspection, inspectors are empowered – among other things – to examine and take copies of documents related to the business, irrespective of the medium on which they are stored.
The Commission says ZSSK may have provided incorrect information on the location of the laptop of one of its employees. It may have also failed to provide requested data from this laptop by allowing its re-installation, which led to an irrecoverable loss of the stored data.
The Commission takes the preliminary view that by this behaviour ZSSK may have infringed its obligation to comply with the inspectors under the antitrust Regulation 1/2003.