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Irish Competition Watchdog Gains New Powers to Issue Fines

 |  September 27, 2023

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) can now issue fines of up to €10m or 10% of a firm’s global turnover, and can unwind mergers or acquisitions arranged without its clearance.

Under the Competition Act 2022, the CCPC can now issue civil fines of up to €10m, or 10% of a firm’s global turnover, for breaches of Irish and EU competition law. This new law, which came into effect today, grants the competition watchdog more power to penalize anti-competitive behavior. Previously, fines for breaches of competition law in Ireland could only be imposed by a court following a criminal prosecution.

“The substantial financial penalties that are now available to the CCPC will be an essential deterrent when tackling white-collar crime, including cartels,” said CCPC chairman Brian McHugh.

The new legislation also introduces increased fines for breaches of competition law, new leniency provisions, a provision against bid-rigging, and additional powers in the areas of mergers and surveillance powers. Trade Minister Simon Coveney emphasized that these new powers send a strong signal that white-collar crime will not be tolerated and will be heavily penalized.

The CCPC has also implemented a “leniency program” to encourage companies to come forward and disclose their participation in cartels and resale price maintenance, providing evidence on other parties involved. The first successful applicant to the leniency program will receive full immunity from administrative financial sanctions. Subsequent successful applicants may also receive reductions in any administrative financial sanctions that may be imposed.

The Competition (Amendment) Act 2022 grants the CCPC the power to unwind a merger or acquisition that has been implemented without its clearance. This power will also extend to the communications regulator Comreg.

The act aligns competition policy across the EU, allowing for more streamlined and efficient cooperation between competition authorities. It also enables the challenging of illegal practices across borders. Dara Calleary, the Minister of State with responsibility for company regulation, stated that anti-competitive behaviors drive up costs, hinder innovation, freeze out start-ups and smaller businesses, and lead to poor quality products and services. This new legislation aims to ensure that violators are faced with strong penalties.

Source: Irish Examiner