CCPC welcomes the publication of the Competition (Amendment) Bill 2022

January 31, 2022

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) welcomes the publication of the Competition (Amendment) Bill 2022 (the Bill) which transposes Directive 2019/1 (ECN+ Directive) into Irish law and expands the CCPC’s power to enforce European and Irish competition law.

Commenting on the publication of the Bill, Jeremy Godfrey, Chairperson of the CCPC, said:

The Bill will give the CCPC important new powers that we can use to ensure open competitive markets that work in the interests of consumers, businesses and all of Irish society. For the first time, the CCPC will be able to fine companies for breaches of competition law such as cartels, bid rigging and abusive market practices. We will also be able to encourage whistleblowing on secret cartels by offering reductions in fines to companies that provide evidence against other cartel members.

In other EU member states, similar powers have proved to be a significant deterrent against breaches of competition law. We look forward to implementing the provisions of the Bill once it is passed, and working with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment to put in place the necessary resources and implementing regulations.

The implementation of the new powers will require the CCPC to adopt a number of new policies and guidelines.  A series of public consultations will be held in early 2022 as the CCPC seeks the views of stakeholders and interested parties.

The draft legislation will now be considered by the Houses of the Oireachtas, where it may be subject to further amendments. You can view the draft legislation on the Oireachtas website.

Notes:

At present, Ireland is one of a very small number of European countries that only allows for a company to be fined if a Court finds that there has been a breach proven to a criminal standard. This Bill provides that fines can now be imposed for breaches of Irish and EU competition law on an administrative basis. These fines will be set drawing on EU competition fining norms.

The Bill also proposes to strengthen the CCPC’s enforcement powers allowing the CCPC to bring summary prosecutions for gun-jumping offences; unwind certain mergers which have already been implemented; to require information from third parties and granting targeted surveillance powers subject to Court authorisation for hard core cartels.

ComReg is also a competition authority, enforcing aspects of competition law in the electronic communications sector. The Bill gives ComReg similar powers to those given to the CCPC and the two agencies will continue to cooperate as needed.

The first consultation on the CCPC’s new policies and guidelines will begin on 14 February 2022 and will consider an administrative leniency policy; a guidance note on the interaction between the cartel immunity programme and the administrative leniency policy; and a guidance note on the choice(s) of enforcement regime(s) for breaches of competition law.

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