The annual report of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) shows that it carried out a significantly higher number of online and in-person inspections last year.
The 605 business-compliance inspections included unannounced visits to business and retail premises, online sweeps and inspections with customs authorities.
The figure compares with 115 in 2021, when activities were affected by public-health restrictions.
During the year, the consumer-protection body examined the price-display practices of 277 fuel stations and made 20 unannounced visits to car traders.
The watchdog also secured three prosecutions for car crime last year.
First deal blocked
During 2022, the competition body blocked a proposed merger – Uniphar’s acquisition of NaviCorp – for the first time since its establishment in 2014.
It made a further 69 merger determinations throughout the year. The total of 70 was down slightly from the 74 recorded in 2021.
The watchdog said that the number of complex mergers that it assessed continued to increase, accounting for 25% of the determinations in 2022.
A total of 18 investigations required an extended first-phase review, and a further seven were full (Phase 2) investigations.
The report shows that more than 32,4000 consumers used the CCPC’s helpline last year, while almost 795,000 used its online Money Tools feature.
The year also saw the enactment of the Competition (Amendment) Act 2022, which will give the CCPC stronger powers.