PARIS, May 19 -- Acting on a Feb. 16 warning to move against European Union states that do not open their energy markets, the EU's Competition Commission on May 16 conducted surprise inspections of gas companies in Germany, Italy, France, Belgium, and Austria (OGJ Online, Apr. 5, 2006).
The five nations are suspected of violating European Commission rules against "restrictive business practices and abuse of dominant position." They are believed to be preventing new entrants into energy markets by blocking access to gas lines and storage installations or otherwise attempting to dominate the market.
The commission declined to name the companies visited, but Gaz de France, Germany's E.ON AG and RWE-DEA AG, Austria's OMV AG, and Belgian subsidiaries of the Suez Group, Fluxys SA, and Distrigaz Corp. confirmed they were among the companies inspected.
The commission pointed out that the inspections did not mean the companies are guilty. "Companies have the right to be heard in the proceedings against them," it said.