The CCPC and protected disclosures
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) is prescribed by Statutory Instrument No. 367 of 2020 – Protected Disclosures Act 2014 (Disclosure to Prescribed Persons) Order 2020 to receive protected disclosures under the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 (the “2014 Act”) from external workers that are not CCPC workers.
What is a protected disclosure?
A protected disclosure is defined in the 2014 Act as a disclosure of information which, in the reasonable belief of the worker, tends to show one or more relevant wrongdoings, which came to the attention of the worker in connection with the worker’s employment and is disclosed in the manner outlined in the 2014 Act. This is sometimes referred to as “whistleblowing”.
The terms “worker” and “relevant wrongdoing” are defined in the 2014 Act.
Making a protected disclosure to the CCPC
In order to make a protected disclosure to the CCPC a worker must reasonably believe that the information disclosed, and any allegations contained in it, are substantially true and that the relevant wrongdoing is related to the enforcement of consumer protection law by the CCPC, the enforcement of competition law by the CCPC, or the review of mergers or acquisitions that are notified to the CCPC.
The information must be disclosed in the manner outlined in the 2014 Act and the disclosure should contain the following:
- Name and contact details (anonymous disclosures are accepted and will be investigated in so far as possible).
- Request for confidentiality, if desired.
- A statement that the disclosure is being made under the Protected Disclosures Act 2014.
- Name of any organisation involved.
- A detailed description and as much information as possible relating to the alleged wrongdoing, including dates, if it is still ongoing, whether it has been disclosed previously and any evidence that would help in assessing the disclosure.
Protected disclosures can be made to any Member of the Commission. All disclosures received will be taken seriously and will be addressed appropriately.
To make a protected disclosure to a Member of the Commission please write to:
Member (insert Member’s name here)
Competition and Consumer Protection Commission
Please note, a person may be designated to investigate the disclosure a Member has received.
The CCPC understands the need for maintaining confidentially and protecting the identity of the worker making a protected disclosure. The 2014 Act obliges us to protect the identity of a worker making a protected disclosure except where:
a. The disclosure recipient shows that they took all reasonable steps to avoid disclosing any such information;
b. The disclosure recipient reasonably believes that the discloser does not object to the disclosure of any such information;
c. The disclosure recipient reasonably believes that disclosing such information is necessary for:
- the effective investigation of the relevant wrongdoing concerned,
- the prevention of serious risk to the security of the State, public health, public safety or the environment,
- the prevention of crime or prosecution of a criminal offence; or
d. The disclosure is otherwise necessary in the public interest or is required by law.
If you are concerned that your identity is not being protected by the CCPC, you should notify the CCPC as soon as practicable. Such concerns will be reviewed and appropriate action taken where necessary.
Where a worker provides their identity and contact details, the CCPC will acknowledge receipt of the disclosure and provide relevant information to them regarding the investigation process within 5 working days. Further contact will be made with them after an initial screening of the disclosure has taken place. Details of any next steps will also be provided to the worker at that point.
Separate procedure for reporting breaches of the Competition Act 2002
Section 50 of the Competition Act 2002, as amended, (the “2002 Act”) provides certain protections to persons communicating with the CCPC regarding breaches of competition law. Section 50 of the 2002 Act is distinct from the 2014 Act and does not apply to protected disclosures made under the 2014 Act.
Section 50 of the 2002 Act refers to the communication to the CCPC by any person of their opinion that an offence under section 6 or 7 of that Act has been or is being committed or that certain other provisions of the 2002 Act have not been or are not being complied with. Unlike the 2014 Act, section 50 of the 2002 Act is not limited to communications by a worker concerning a wrongdoing which came to their attention in connection with their employment.
Section 50 of the 2002 Act protects a person from (i) liability in damages and (ii) from being penalised by their employer in respect of such a communication to the CCPC where that person has acted reasonably in forming that opinion and communicating it to the CCPC.
For further information on making a competition complaint please see here.
Section 22 of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 requires the publication of an
Annual Report each year relating to the number of protected disclosures made
in the preceding year and any actions taken in response to such disclosures.