The Government has approved the publication of new legislation designed to give regulators more powers to deal with anti-competitive practices by businesses.
The Competition (Amendment) Bill 2022 will give more powers to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) and the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg).
Under the proposals, breaches of competition law can be enforced through actions taken by competition authorities, with maximum fines of up to €10 million, or 10% of total worldwide turnover, whichever is greater.
Leo Varadkar (Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment) said that, while the vast majority of businesses did not engage in anti-competitive practices, some did, at the expense of consumers and other businesses – particularly newer and smaller ones.
He added that anti-competitive practices drove up costs, froze out start-ups and smaller businesses, and led to bad quality products and poor services.
Robert Troy (Minister of State for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation) described the bill as “a significant step-change" in competition enforcement to effectively tackle white-collar crime in Ireland.
The legislation arose from the EU's ECN+ Directive, which aims 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).
Article 101 prohibits businesses from engaging in anti-competitive agreements and practices, while article 102 seeks to prevent the abuse of dominance.
As well as the CCPC and ComReg, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the courts are also subject to the ECN+ Directive.