News & Events

Competition Authorities to get more powers to protect consumers and break up cartels

CCPC and ComReg to get more powers

The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar TD today (Tuesday, 22 December) announced that the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) and the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) will get more powers of enforcement to protect consumers and tackle anti-competitive practices, under the European ECN + Directive, which the Government has today agreed to transpose into Irish law. 

The new powers, which will be set out in the forthcoming Competition (Amendment) Bill 2021, will give Ireland’s competition authorities more powers to issue fines to companies breaches of Irish and EU competition law, including cartel behaviour or abuse of dominance.

The Tánaiste said:

“This new Bill will give our agencies the power to enforce Competition Law much more effectively, giving them more teeth to protect consumers and crack down on anti-competitive practices. It will mean that cartels, where they exist, will be broken up and that companies abusing their dominant position will be suitably punished and deterred from doing so in the first place. This is a really positive development for consumers.

 “The Bill also gives greater powers of cooperation between competition authorities across the EU to fight such crime on a cross-border basis within the Union.”

Minister of State for Trade Promotion, Digital & Company Regulation Robert Troy TD said:

 “This Bill is an important further step in the Government’s efforts to tackle white collar crime, and the devastating impact which it can have on its victims and on our wider society. It also represents a step change in competition enforcement for Ireland and will support ongoing work to ensure a competitive and fair marketplace.

 “This is one of my top priorities for company regulation and will ensure our competition authorities have a full toolbox to protect the interests of consumers and businesses.”

The Competition (Amendment) Bill 2021 fulfils a Programme for Government commitment and two actions set out in the Government’s recently announced Action Plan on Insurance Reform. It also fulfils one of the recommendations of the Report of the Hamilton Review (Review of Structures and Strategies to Prevent, Investigate and Penalise Economic Crime and Corruption) published by Minister McEntee on 3rd December last.

Notes for Editors

The Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council to empower the competition authorities of the Member States to be more effective enforcers and to ensure the proper functioning of the internal market (ECN+ Directive) must be transposed into national law by 4 February 2021. 

The central aim of the ECN+ Directive is to ensure that National Competition Authorities (NCAs) have guarantees of independence, sufficient resources and appropriate powers of enforcement, including the ability to issue fines, for breaches of Articles 101 and 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). Under the TFEU, Article 101 prohibit undertakings from engaging in anti-competitive agreements and practises, and Article 102 seeks to prevent the abuse of dominance. The National Competition Authorities (NCAs) in Ireland for the purposes of EU competition law, and which are subject to the ECN+ Directive, are the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Irish Courts.  

The Directive will improve the decentralised system of enforcement of EU competition rules put in place by Regulation (EC) No. 1/2003 and boost the effective enforcement of EU competition rules.  It is intended to empower the competition authorities of Member States to be more effective enforcers and to ensure proper functioning of the EU’s internal market.  In effect, the Directive covers the parallel application of European competition law and national competition law to the same case, as well as (in Articles 31(3) and (4)) the application of national competition law on a stand-alone basis.