Irish Cement raided in competition investigation

Inquiry focuses on charge of abusing a dominant position

 Commission chairwoman Isolde Goggin: searches are part of an ongoing investigation that is expected to take some time. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Commission chairwoman Isolde Goggin: searches are part of an ongoing investigation that is expected to take some time. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

A competition investigation launched last week with a raid on the offices of CRH subsidiary Irish Cement is looking for evidence it is abusing a dominant position in the market.

Gardaí and officials from the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) raided Irish Cement’s offices last week in an investigation into the €50 million bagged-cement industry.

It is understood the inquiry is focused on charges of abuse of a dominant position, which is an offence under both Irish and European law.

The offence involves a business using a powerful position in a particular market to force out rivals or put them out of business. It often involves predatory pricing, that is cutting charges for products or services to a point where others cannot compete.

Irish Cement is one of the largest players in the market. It is part of Ireland’s biggest company, the €20 billion international building materials group, CRH, which has operations in Europe, the US and Asia.

In a statement, CCPC chairwoman Isolde Goggin said last week’s searches were part of an ongoing investigation that was expected to take some time, and therefore the commission was not in a position to provide any further details.

Irish Cement confirmed the raid in a statement. “Irish Cement fully facilitated the inspection and is continuing to co-operate with CCPC. Inspections regarding competition policies, procedures and practices are an accepted part of the business environment around the world,” it said.

The company added that it operated to the highest standard and was confident that it had no issues in relation to competition.

Conor O Riain, chief executive of another producer, Ecocem, said his business would co-operate with any CCPC inquiry, although he added the commission had not approached it or contacted it.