New enforcement powers of the CCPC (Competition and Consumer Protection Commission) come into effect today, which will allow the commission to impose “substantial financial penalties” for breaches of Irish and EU competition law.
The Competition (Amendment) Act 2022 allows the CCPC to issue administrative sanctions of up to €10 million or 10 per cent of a company’s annual worldwide turnover.
The Act transposes a directive of the European Parliament, the ECN+ Directive, which aims to empower competition authorities of Member States to be more effective.
Until now, Ireland was one of a small number of European countries where fines for breaches of competition law could only be imposed by a court following a criminal prosecution.
Brian McHugh, chairman of the CCPC, said it “marks a new day in terms of competition law enforcement in Ireland”.
“The substantial financial penalties that are now available to the CCPC will be an essential deterrent when tackling white-collar crime, including cartels,” he said.
The act also allows the CCPC to grant leniency from administrative financial sanctions to companies who disclose their participation in cartels and resale price maintenance, and provide evidence on other participants.
Mr McHugh said international evidence shows that leniency programmes are the “single most effective way of gathering essential evidence of collusion”.
“Our leniency programme is now open for applications and we look forward to engaging with legal stakeholders on the practical operation of the scheme,” he said.
The CCPC also has new powers to call in mergers and acquisitions that would not previously have required mandatory CCPC approval, where the CCPC considers the merger may have an effect on competition in markets for goods and services.
The act also strengthens the CCPC’s ability to gather evidence in cartel investigations, through video and audio surveillance and interception and recording of electronic communications of suspects, with High Court authorisation.