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EU UPDATE: Competition Law: Dawn Raids – Who’s there…?

Compliance personnel in EU companies will usually be well be aware of the fact that the European and national competition authorities can raid both company premises and their employees’ private homes, subject to certain conditions.

In practice companies may be raided however by a whole set of other authorities too, such as customs,  tax inspectors, export control inspectors, food and health inspectors, environmental inspectors, social security inspectors, sectoral regulators, etc. 

Belgian customs for example reportedly carry out about a hundred raids a year. UK tax inspectors reportedly raided in 2011  499 times the homes of people they suspected of not paying tax.

However, the various authorities can and do pool their resources and multi-authority raids are not unheard of.

In customs cases the inspectors will usually be from Customs, police  and possibly the EU’s anti-fraud office OLAF, but they can equally also involve other authorities.

As with competition cases, companies and individuals have fundamental rights which should be respected during these raids.

The precise  rights and duties of the parties involved will differ however depending on the country, the inspecting authorities and the factual circumstances  - and what works with one authority will not necessarily work for another authority.

Equally the prosecution rates and fining amounts issued can differ greatly between authorities. 

Effective compliance programmes will always need to be subject matter specific: eg. customs classification vs anti-cartel.  However, a good compliance ethic and procedure on dawn raids in one area will have value across the board.

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