Ireland: Competition and Consumer Protection Commission
Ireland
Abstract Shape Background
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

TBA
Chair of the Commission

Patrick Kenny
Member of the Commission

Brian McHugh
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?

Isolde Goggin retired on 4 October 2021. A new Chairperson has not yet been appointed by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment although we understand the process is well advanced.

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 2021 is €18,021,275.

How many staff are employed by the agency?

As of Friday 5 November 2021, 131 staff are 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. The Commission for Communications Regulation, in relation to the electronic communications sector.

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. The Minister has not yet blocked a media merger.

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 (e.g., 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 current 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. However, the CCPC can enter into agreements with undertakings that offer legally binding commitments to address identified competition concerns in civil cases.

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.

As of 4 November 2021, three 2021 transactions required formal commitments to obtain approval:

  • M/20/005 – ESB/Coillte (cleared with commitments in February 2021);
  • M/21/024 – Orpea/Firstcare (cleared with commitments in July 2021); and
  • M/21/016 – Pandagreen/Exomex (cleared with commitments in September 2021)

In 2020, one transaction required formal commitments to obtain approval:

  • M/19/034 – CVC/Celtic Rugby DAC (cleared with commitments in January 2020)

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

As of 4 November 2021, one merger is currently undergoing a Phase 2 investigation

  • M/21/021 – Bank of Ireland/Certain Assets of KBC.

In 2020, two mergers required a Phase 2 investigation:

  • M/20/003 – Link Group/Pepper (Merger withdrawn in January 2021) - was withdrawn by the parties before the CCPC decided whether the merger is likely to result in an SLC in any market for goods or services in the State.
  • M/20/005 – ESB/Coillte (cleared with commitments in February 2021) – was cleared with remedies to address SLC concerns.

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, which provides for immunity from prosecution for the first successful applicant. Irish competition law does not currently permit the CCPC to operate a leniency programme although this is expected to change with the introduction of the Competition (Amendment) Bill 2021.

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 (as amended). The CCPC investigates criminal breaches of the law and refers serious 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?

New competition legislation, the Competition (Amendment) Bill 2021, is expected to be enacted in early 2022. The Bill will transpose Directive EU 2019/1 (ECN+ Directive) into Irish law and introduce a number of significant changes to the current competition law enforcement regime in Ireland.  The ECN+ Directive provides for minimum guarantees and standards to empower national competition authorities with the appropriate tools to enforce EU competition law in a harmonised manner. In particular, the ECN+ Directive requires Ireland to introduce non-criminal financial sanctions for breaches of EU competition law.

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 is to seek commitments from a business that it will cease the practice and/or obtain a court injunction against it doing the same action again. However, financial sanctions cannot be imposed by the civil courts. Ireland is the only country in the EU that currently cannot introduce a leniency programme. The Directive also requires leniency programmes in all Member States.

The Bill will also include amendments to existing competition legislation which are outside the scope of the ECN+ Directive. The CCPC expects these amendments will include: the introduction of a specific offence of bid-rigging, giving powers to the CCPC to bring summary prosecutions in respect of gun-jumping offences, enhanced surveillance powers when investigating serious criminal breaches of competition law, and the introduction of additional powers relating to our merger regime. The purpose of these amendments is to further bolster the CCPC’s powers in the enforcement of EU and Irish competition law and the statutory merger review regime.

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 CCPC’s predecessors, 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 search operations since its establishment. The last search operation related to the enforcement of competition law 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.

As detailed above, the CCPC does not currently have the power to itself impose penalties on undertakings or individuals in response to competition law breaches. As noted above, currently Irish legislation provides that the only financial penalties that may be imposed for breaches of competition law are fines imposed by the courts following a criminal conviction.

The current position under Irish competition legislation is that the liability of individuals (including directors, managers and other similar officers) for breaches of competition law is ‘secondary liability’ i.e., it is derived from the offence committed by the undertaking. In addition, under Irish company law, individuals convicted on indictment for a competition offence are deemed automatically disqualified from being appointed or acting as a director or other officer, auditor, receiver, liquidator or examiner or being in any way concerned in the management of a company for a period of five years after the date of conviction (or for such other period as the court may order).

In 2017, in conjunction with the Director of Public Prosecutions, the CCPC secured Ireland’s first conviction for bid-rigging. Aston Carpets & Flooring (Aston Carpets) and Brendan Smith, a former director of Aston Carpets, both pleaded guilty to engaging in bid-rigging in the procurement of flooring contracts for major international companies between 2012 and 2013. Mr Smith was also convicted of impeding a criminal prosecution. A three-month suspended sentence was imposed on Mr Smith plus a fine of €7,500. Mr Smith was also disqualified from acting as a company director for a period of five years in accordance with section 839 of the Companies Act 2014. The judge imposed a fine of €10,000 on Aston Carpets. In 2018, the fine imposed on Mr Smith was increased to €45,000 following an appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

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?

In Ireland the test is decisive influence rather than the amount of shareholding in a business. Notification is required where a merger situation occurs and the thresholds are met. Parties are also required to notify the CCPC of any proposed media merger. Parties can also voluntarily notify a merger where the thresholds are not met.


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

To Be Announced
Chairperson
Tel: +353 1 402 5500
Email:

Communications

Brian McHugh
Member
Tel: +353 1 470 3699
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

Síona Ryan
Director
Tel: +353 1 4025560
Email: [email protected]

Questions and answers

How many economists do you employ?

As of 4 November 2021, 14 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. The Director of Competition Enforcement and Mergers attends Chief Economist meetings.

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 also use the services of expert external competition economists to check the robustness of its analysis. The CCPC’s members also have a function in this regard.

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

Various types of Economics work (econometric analysis, economic advice, etc.) has been outsourced on various occasions – for example, on some sector studies; investigations and specific mergers. However, the majority of economics work is done by the CCPC’s own staff of economists.

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