In retail, compliance inspections took place on 78 premises under consumer protection law.
Fixed-payment notices were paid by traders and compliance notices were issued to five traders, directing them to comply with consumer law, on grounds of misleading price indications and hallmarking.
The CCPC was formed in October 2014 from the amalgamation of the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority.
The commission is responsible for enforcing competition and consumer law, for informing and educating consumers about their rights, and for advocating on their behalf.
The body wants open and competitive markets where consumers are protected and businesses actively compete.
In 2018, it was active in sectors including vehicle crime, ticketing, motor insurance, mortgages, waste collection, PCP car finance, and the import of unsafe products.
In September, three electrical goods operators were told their products did not comply with the EU (Low Voltage Electrical Equipment) Regulations 2016 (Low Voltage Regulations).
The goods were seized and disposed of, in conjunction with proactive inspections of mobile-phone chargers and other similar products.
This included inspections of Christmas market stalls on Henry Street in Dublin. It found a number of products were non-compliant with regulations, did not have CE markings, or the manufacturer’s name and address, or clear warning labels.
As a result, a number of products were withdrawn from sale on a voluntary basis by relevant traders.
A total of 98 mergers were notified to the CCPC during 2018, according to its annual report.
This was the most active year on record, in terms of merger notifications, and saw a 36% increase on 2017.
The CCPC issued 95 determinations, with 14 cases requiring extended investigation, and three running to a phrase-two probe.
Real estate was the most active sector for merger activity, but information and communications, healthcare and financial and insurance services were also prominent, as were the motor industry and entertainment and recreation.
In five cases, formal commitments to address competition concerns were obtained from the parties, ranging from requirements to divest significant business facilities, to restrictions on access to confidential information among parties.
Revised financial thresholds for merger notifications became effective from 1 January, increasing from €50 million to €60 million in aggregate turnover in this country.
The CCPC has also invited stakeholders’ views on the introduction of a simplified procedure for mergers that do not raise competition concerns.
“We believe that the new financial thresholds and a simplified notification procedure will improve the efficiency of Ireland’s merger regime, and will help us ensure that our efforts are focused on those transactions which present a significant risk to competition, and are most likely to harm consumers and businesses,” the CCPC annual report says.
On legislative powers, 2018 saw the advancement of the European Commission’s anti-trust ECN+ Directive, which brings Ireland in line with other European countries by allowing non-criminal financial penalties for breaches of competition law.
In 2018, the CCPC also examined the waste sector, from both a competition and consumer-protection perspective.
It published a detailed study of the market, issued two merger determinations and examined complaints in relation to potential anti-competitive behaviour.
The CCPC report found that Ireland’s waste collection sector is “complex and atypical” among other European States, with State, commercial, and consumer interests continually overlapping, and often in conflict with each other.
The report’s recommendations include:
Establishing an economic regulator for household-waste collection,
Reviewing the Government’s 2012 policy document ‘A Resource Opportunity: Waste Management Policy in Ireland’ on foot of the evidence collected by the CCPC, and
Ensuring that all of the State’s resources are co-ordinated to deliver optimal outcomes for this market.
A total of 840 authorisations were issued for credit intermediaries, and three licences for pawnbrokers were issued by the CCPC. These are:
- John Brereton Pawnbroker Limited – 108 Capel Street, Dublin 1,
- Kearns Pawnbrokers and Jewellers Limited – 69 Queen Street, Dublin 7, and
- Carthy’s Pawnbroking Limited – 84 Marlborough Street, Dublin 1.
The CCPC also concluded Ireland’s first criminal investigation involving ‘gun-jumping’, referring the file to the DPP who gave direction to prosecute.
Goods ranging from toys, sunglasses, kitchen appliances, electronic IT equipment, such as chargers/adaptors, hoverboards, and other low-voltage electrical equipment products were referred to the CCPC for inspection during 2018.
Last year, a total of 42 consignments containing approximately 346,739 items were referred to it by customs officers.
The CCPC determined that 30 of these consignments, or 33,688 items, did not meet the requirements of relevant product-safety legislation, and could not be placed on the Irish market.