Subscriber OnlyIreland

Competition watchdog launches court action against alarm companies PhoneWatch and HomeSecure

Both companies owned by Norwegian firm Sector Alarm Group

Alarm companies

The competition watchdog has launched High Court proceedings against two of the State’s leading home alarm companies in connection with an ongoing criminal investigation.

The legal actions, which are set to come before the courts later this week, are being taken by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) against PhoneWatch and HomeSecure, both of which are owned by Norwegian firm Sector Alarm Group.

The CCPC said it could not comment on the specifics of the court cases on the basis that the “process relates to an ongoing investigation”.

However, in a statement, it did confirm that the hearings are to determine the admissibility of certain information obtained by the watchdog in connection with criminal investigations over alleged anti-competitive practices.

READ MORE

The court proceedings relate to a statutory process initiated by the CCPC under section 33 of the Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014. “This is a procedural matter related to a criminal investigation under our competition law powers,” said a commission spokeswoman.

Under the relevant section of the legislation, “disclosure of information may be compelled, or possession of it taken even if the information is privileged legal material” as long as “the confidentiality of the information can be maintained pending the determination by the High Court of the issue as to whether the information is privileged legal material”.

The CCPC is the statutory body with responsibility for the enforcement of the State’s competition law. which forbids anti-competitive agreements between two or more independent firms, such as agreements to fix prices, share markets, or restrict output.

Such agreements are often referred to as “cartel agreements”, the CCPC has said.

Competition law also forbids firms which hold a dominant position from engaging in abusive practices, such as predatory pricing or refusal to supply, according to the CCPC.

Last month the watchdog and teams of gardaí carried out “dawn raids” on the premises of unnamed businesses active in the home alarm industry as part of an ongoing criminal investigation into potential breaches of competition law.

At the time the CCPC said it was unable to provide any further detail about the raids or the identity of the companies that it had targeted on the basis that the investigation was ongoing.

However in a statement released to The Irish Times on Tuesday, PhoneWatch confirmed it was “one of the parties approached by the CCPC in relation to an investigation into the home alarm market”.

Should banks be on the hook for access to cash into the future here?

Listen | 39:48

A spokeswoman said the company had “played a leading role in the development of the home security industry in Ireland over the last 32 years [and] we look forward to engaging constructively with the CCPC in their investigation”.

PhoneWatch was set up by Telecom Éireann in 1991 and quickly became the dominant force in monitored home alarms in the Republic before being sold by Eir to Sector Alarm in 2013 after the telecoms company decided home alarm systems no longer fitted into its business model.

It has some 120,000 customers in Ireland.

In 2021, Sector Alarm deepened its footprint in the Irish security space by acquiring HomeSecure which had about 20,000 customers at the time of the sale.

Based in Oslo, Sector Alarm has more than 650,000 customers across Europe, according to its website, with businesses in France, Finland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Sweden as well as its home market and Ireland. It employs more than 3,000 people.

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor