Ireland: Competition and Consumer Protection Commission
Ireland
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Ireland: Competition and Consumer Protection Commission

Ireland: Competition and Consumer Protection Commission

Ireland

From the Enforcer: Ireland

Contacts

Address: Bloom House, Railway Street, Dublin 1, Ireland
Tel: +353 1 4025500
Email: [email protected]
Web: www.ccpc.ie

Isolde Goggin
Chair of the Commission

Patrick Kenny
Member of the Commission

Brian McHugh
Member of the Commission

Fergal O’Leary
Member of the Commission

Questions and answers

How long is the head of agency’s term of office?

Five years.

When is he or she due for reappointment?

October 2021.

Which posts within the organisation are political appointments?

None.

What is the agency’s annual budget?

The CCPC is a dual agency for competition and consumer protection and budgets are not allocated to individual functions. The CCPC’s budget allocation in 2019 was €13,100,000.

How many staff are employed by the agency?

At the end of 2019, there were 105 staff employed at the CCPC.

To whom does the head of the agency report?

The independence of the CCPC is guaranteed by statute. The Chairperson is accountable to the Public Accounts Committee in respect of the CCPC’s use of public money and must appear before other parliamentary committees where invited. The CCPC also has an Oversight & Performance Delivery Agreement (OPDA) with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The OPDA sets out how the CCPC’s functions are performed and the metrics that are used to assess this performance.

Do any industry-specific regulators have competition powers?

Yes.

If so, how do these relate to your agency’s role?

Section 19 of the Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014 allows the CCPC to enter into agreements with certain prescribed bodies to cooperate in performing their respective functions relating to (i) consumer protection and welfare issues, or (ii) competition issues between undertakings. This allows cooperation, avoids duplication and ensures consistency between the CCPC and other statutory bodies. The CCPC has cooperation agreements with the following statutory bodies:

  • Commission for Communications Regulation;
  • Central Bank of Ireland;
  • Commission for Energy Regulation;
  • Broadcasting Authority of Ireland;
  • Commission for Aviation Regulation;
  • Health Insurance Authority; and
  • National Transport Authority.

May politicians overrule or disregard authority’s decisions? If they have ever exercised this right, describe the most recent example.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014 allows for the possibility that a media merger, which the CCPC has cleared on competition grounds, to be blocked by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment on grounds relating to the public interest in protecting media plurality. In one instance, the parties abandoned the merger during the period of the Minister’s review. This right has never been exercised.

For the purposes of completeness. Following the financial crisis and for purposes of ensuring financial stability in relation to financial institutions that received support from the State, section 54 of the Credit Institutions (Stabilisation) Act 2010 provides that Parts 2 and 3 of the Competition Act 2002 and section 7 of the Act of 2008 will not apply with respect to:

  • the issue of shares in a relevant institution to the Minister or to a nominee of the Minister under a direction order;
  • the appointment of a special manager to a relevant institution;
  • the acquisition or disposal of an asset, or all of the assets, of a relevant institution or a liability of that institution by a special manager or under a direction order; or
  • a transfer under a transfer order.

Section 96 of the Central Bank and Credit Institutions (Resolution) Act 2011 provides that Parts 2 and 3 of the Competition Act 2002 (as amended) will not apply to the appointment of a ‘special manager’ or to certain other actions undertaken in respect of relevant financial institutions pursuant to the 2010 Act.

Does the law allow non-competition aims to be considered when your agency takes decisions?

When exercising its competition law functions, the CCPC only makes decisions on competition grounds. However, in the context of the CCPC’s broader work (eg, market studies), the CCPC has a dual competition and consumer mandate which informs how the CCPC identifies and address issues in markets.

Which body hears appeals against the agency’s decisions? Is there any form of judicial review beyond that mentioned above? If so, which body conducts this? Has any competition decision by the agency been overturned?

The CCPC’s functions under Irish competition law are primarily investigative. The CCPC does not currently have the power to make decisions in respect of breaches of Irish or EU competition law or adopt prohibition decisions or to make orders providing for remedies (procedural or structural) including interim relief. Instead, Irish competition legislation reserves such powers to the courts. Decisions of the courts are appealable to high courts. In criminal cases, the CCPC may institute summary prosecutions in the lower (District) courts, but for serious cartel cases, it refers completed files to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), who has the sole responsibility in Ireland for prosecuting indictable offences. The DPP brings prosecutions under the Competition Act 2002 (as amended) before the Central Criminal Court, which is the criminal division of the High Court.

The CCPC’s decisions on mergers may be appealed to the High Court. The only merger determination to be overturned by the High Court in Ireland occurred in 2009 and related to the acquisition of Breeo Foods Limited and Breeo Brands Limited by Rye Investments Limited, an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of Kerry Group plc.

Has the authority ever blocked a proposed merger? If yes, please provide the most recent instances.

None since the establishment of the CCPC in October 2014.

Has the authority ever imposed conditions on a proposed merger? If yes, please provide the most recent instances.

Yes, in 2019, four transactions required formal commitments to obtain approval:

  1. M/18/053 - Pandagreen/Knockharley Landfill and Natureford;
  2. M/18/063 – Berendsen (Elis)/Kings Laundry (Phase II determination);
  3. M/18/067 – LN Gaiety/MCD Productions (Phase II determination); and
  4. M/19/010 – Formpress Publishing (Iconic)/assets of Midland Tribune.

Has the authority conducted a Phase II investigation in any of its merger filings? If yes, please provide the most recent instances.

Yes, in 2018, two mergers required a Phase 2 investigation:

  • M/18/063 – Berendsen (Elis)/Kings Laundry (Phase 2 determination);
  • M/18/067 – LN Gaiety/MCD Productions (Phase 2 determination);

Has the authority ever pursued a company based outside your jurisdiction for a cartel offence? If yes, please provide the most recent instances.

No.

Do you operate an immunity and leniency programme? Whom should potential applicants contact?

The CCPC operates a cartel immunity programme in conjunction with the Director of Public Prosecutions. Irish competition law does not permit the CCPC to operate a leniency programme.

What discounts are available to companies that cooperate with cartel investigations?

None.

Is there a criminal enforcement track? If so, who is responsible for it? Does the authority conduct criminal investigations and prosecutions for cartel activity? If not, is there another authority in the country that does?

Yes. Infringements of both domestic and European competition law in Ireland are treated as criminal offences under the Competition Act 2002. The CCPC investigates criminal breaches of the law and refers criminal cases to the Director of Public Prosecutions with the recommendation that the parties be prosecuted on indictment.

Are there any plans to reform the competition law?

Yes. The ECN+ Directive will come into effect in 2021 and introduce a number of changes to the current competition law regime in Ireland, in particular the introduction of non-criminal financial sanctions for breaches of EU competition law or breaches of both EU and Irish competition. This Directive aims to ensure that national competition authorities have the appropriate tools to enforce EU competition law in a harmonised manner. At present, Ireland is one of a very small number of European countries that will only allow for a company to be fined if a court finds that there has been a criminal breach of competition law. If an investigation does not reach a criminal standard, at present, the most the CCPC can achieve through the courts is to seek commitments from a business that they will cease the practice and obtain an injunction against them doing the same action again. However, financial sanctions cannot be imposed. Ireland is the only country in the EU that cannot introduce a leniency programme. The Directive also requires leniency programmes in all member states.

When did the last review of the law occur?

The last review of competition law was completed in October 2014 when the Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014, which amalgamated the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency, was enacted. The 2014 Act largely brought together the existing legislation under which the two legacy organisations operated whilst also giving increased powers to the CCPC to investigate and enforce competition law breaches, including additional and increased enforcement powers in respect of serious competition offences, such as price-fixing, market sharing and bid rigging.

Do you have a separate economics team? If so, please give details.

No.

Has the authority conducted a dawn raid?

Yes, the CCPC has undertaken a number of raids since its establishment. The last dawn raid took place in 2018.

Has the authority imposed penalties on officers or directors of companies for offences committed by the company? If yes, please provide the most recent instances.

In 2019, in conjunction with the Director of Public Prosecutions, the CCPC secured Ireland’s first criminal conviction for gun-jumping in a merger (non-notified merger) with two guilty pleas. . The Court required the two parties who pleaded guilty to donate a total sum of €4,000 to a charity) and to each make a contribution towards legal costs and witness expenses.

What are the pre-merger notification thresholds, if any, for the buyer and seller involved in a merger?

A merger or acquisition must be notified to the CCPC if, in the most recent financial year:

  • the undertakings involved had a combined turnover in the Republic of Ireland of at least €60 million; or
  • at least two undertakings involved had individual turnovers in the Republic of Ireland of at least €10 million.

Are there any restrictions on investments that involve less than a majority stake in the business?

Notification must be made if the parties reach the above thresholds. Parties are also required to notify the CCPC of any proposed media merger.


Ireland: from the enforcer's competition economists

Competition and Consumer Protection Commission

Address: Bloom House, Railway Street, Dublin 1, Ireland
Tel: +353 1 402 5500
Fax: +353 1 402 5501
Email: [email protected]
Web: www.ccpc.ie

Contacts

Executive Office

Isolde Goggin
Chairperson
Tel: +353 1 402 5500
Email: [email protected]

Communications

Fergal O’Leary
Member
Tel: +353 1 402 5558
Email: [email protected]

Grainne Griffin
Director of Communications
Tel: +353 85 856 4955
Email: [email protected]

Consumer Protection

Patrick Kenny
Member
Tel: +353 1 402 5558
Email: [email protected]

Seán Murphy
Director
Tel: +353 1 470 3674
Email: [email protected]

Criminal Enforcement

Patrick Kenny
Member
Tel: +353 1 470 3650
Email: [email protected]

Eksteen Maritz
Director
Tel: + 353 1 470 3657
Email: [email protected]

Legal Services

Patrick Kenny
Member
Tel: +353 1 470 3650
Email: [email protected]

Úna Butler
Director
Tel: +353 1 470 3642
Email: [email protected]

Competition Enforcement & Mergers

Brian McHugh
Member
Tel: +353 1 470 3699
Email: [email protected]

Ibrahim Bah
Director
Tel: +353 1 470 3683
Email: [email protected]

Corporate Services

Brian McHugh
Member
Tel: +353 1 470 3699
Email: [email protected]

Emily Barry
Director
Tel: +353 1 470 3640
Email: [email protected]

Human Resources & Organisation Development

Janet Buckley
Head of Unit
Tel: +353 1 470 3605
Email: [email protected]

Policy and International<
Email: [email protected]

Questions and answers

How many economist do you employ?

11 staff members in the CCPC are economists. In addition, two members of the Commission are also

economists.

Do you have a separate economics unit, or ‘bureau’?

The CCPC does not have a separate economics unit. Economists are integrated within the general staff of the CCPC and spread throughout the various divisions.

Do you have a chief economist?

The CCPC does not have a chief economist.

To whom does the chief economist report?

Not applicable.

Does the chief economist have the power to hire his or her own staff?

Not applicable.

How many economists have a PhD in industrial economics?

Two.

Does the agency include a specialist economist on every case team?

Case teams are typically multidisciplinary and therefore include a specialist economist. The exceptions are cartels, which are prosecuted in Ireland at a criminal level – economic evidence is rarely produced in criminal trials and usually only when fines are considered.

Is the economics unit a second pair of eyes during cases – is it one of the agency’s checks and balances?

The CCPC does not have a separate economics unit. The CCPC has other cross-divisional mechanisms in place to ensure a ‘second pair of eyes’. The CCPC’s ,embers also have a function in this regard.

How much economics work is outsourced? What type of work is outsourced?

Economics work has been outsourced on various occasions – for example, on some sector studies and specific mergers. However, the majority of economics work is done by the CCPC’s own staff of economists.

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