Guidance on Trade Associations

Guidance overview

In 2009 the Competition Authority (predecessor of the CCPC) published a Guidance Notice on Activities of Trade Associations and Compliance with Competition Law. The Guidance Notice informs the business community and trade associations of the limits that competition law places on joint or coordinated action by competitors.

Trade associations can play a productive, pro-competitive role in the development of a sector, thus promoting the efficient functioning of the market. However, we in the CCPC has often encountered situations where trade associations have been used to restrict competition. This has occurred where a trade association either coordinates such anti-competitive activities, or provides competitors with the opportunity to meet and form anti-competitive agreements.

Criminal convictions have been secured relating to price fixing activities by the Connaught Oil Promotion Federation, Irish Ford Dealers Association and the Citroën Dealers Association. In all three cartels, trade association meetings were used as the venue for price fixing agreements between competitors.

The Authority, as it was, also undertook legal proceedings in cases which involved trade associations or associations of undertakings, such as Beef Industry Development Society, Irish Medical Organisation (2014) and the Licensed Vintners Association and Vintners’ Federation of Ireland.

In light of these experiences, the CCPC has specific concerns regarding activities of trade associations and their compliance with competition law. This notice, using hypothetical and past competition enforcement examples, discusses the application of competition law to a variety of activities of trade associations and their members. Among the types of activities discussed are:

  • Co-ordination on pricing
  • Co-ordination on market allocation and output quantities
  • Collective boycotts, collective negotiations
  • Participation in anti-competitive meetings
  • Information exchange

Is there more detail on this topic?

Please read our Guidance note on Trade Associations for further detail on this topic.

However, if you have read the guidance and still have concerns about the activities of a trade association you can contact us.

This Notice is published pursuant to section 30(1)(d) of the Competition Act 2002. This section makes it a statutory function of the CCPC to publish notices containing practical guidance of how to achieve compliance with the provisions of Irish competition law.

Notices set out the considered views of the CCPC relating to a particular area of competition law, and are provided for guidance purposes only. It is ultimately a matter for the courts to decide whether or not a breach of the Irish competition law has occurred.

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