Landlord body rebuked for telling members to introduce charges

Competition law expressly forbids trade associations co-ordinating business conduct

IPOA warned about attempting to influence its members with respect to the setting of rents and charges.

The national body representing landlords has been rebuked after it encouraged members to introduce new charges for tenants in response to Government’s introduction of rent controls.

Competition law expressly forbids a trade association from co-ordinating the business conduct of its members, including the terms and conditions under which they are prepared to supply a product or service.

In December, the Irish Property Owners Association (IPOA), which represents about 5,000 of the State's landlords, issued a press statement in response to Government legislation introducing rent controls in the private residential rental sector.

In the statement, it said that following a meeting of its members, property owners were considering a range of potential measures, including the introduction of a number of new charges to tenants and the withdrawal from State-sponsored rental schemes.



The statement led to an investigation by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) into “potential anti-competitive conduct” by the IPOA. To address the competition concerns, the IPOA has agreed to enter into an agreement and undertakings with the CCPC, under which it has made a number of binding commitments.

These include retracting the press statement and making no further reference to its contents either publicly or to its members. It must also inform, in writing, its members of the retraction. Furthermore, it has committed to writing to members to remind them that the setting of rents and charges in the private rental sector is a matter for individual landlords and their tenants.

It will also introduce a competition law compliance training programme for members of its committee by the end of June, before reporting back to the CCPC.

There are to be no further recommendations to influence decisions of its members with respect to the setting of rents and charges.

CCPC chairwoman Isolde Goggin said it viewed any attempt to co-ordinate business conduct "very seriously" as invariably consumers suffer.

“Following the release of the IPOA’s media statement in December, we opened an investigation and we have worked with the IPOA to bring about an effective and efficient resolution,” she said.

“The commitments provided by the IPOA allow for a swift conclusion of our investigation and importantly, ensure the IPOA’s commitment to fostering a culture of competition law compliance within its organisation and membership.

“While trade associations have the right to represent the interests of their members, it is important that they not only take an active role in ensuring their own compliance with competition legislation, but they must not allow or facilitate commercially sensitive discussions between their members.”

She said the investigation “sends a warning” to all trade associations and businesses that they must comply with competition legislation.

The conduct of trade associations has been the subject of several competition related investigations. Recent cases involved the Approved Tour Guides of Ireland, the National Association of General Practitioners and the Irish Medical Organisation.

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter