On 7 January, the European Commission confirmed that, on 21 October 2008, it carried out unannounced inspections at the premises of smart card chip producers in several member states. It has reason to believe that the companies concerned may have violated EC Treaty rules prohibiting practices such as price fixing, customer allocation and the exchange of commercially sensitive information.

As is customary in these kinds of operations, the EU executive does not reveal the identity of the companies visited. This is just a "preliminary step" in an EU anti-trust investigation for which there is no strict deadline, it recalls. But if its doubts were to be confirmed, the companies would be subject to fines that could reach 10% of their global turnover.

The German semiconductor manufacturer, Infineon, confirmed to AFP that it had been visited, specifying that it was "cooperating" with the EU authorities.

Chips are used for the production of smart cards, such as telephone SIM...

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