Saturday 29 April 2017

Competition watchdog boss wants more enforcement tools

Isolde Goggin Picture: David Conachy
Isolde Goggin Picture: David Conachy
Gavin McLoughlin

Gavin McLoughlin

The head of Ireland's competition watchdog has asked for greater enforcement powers, saying the current system is "not appropriate" for detecting or deterring some types of anti-competitive behaviour.

Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) chairwoman Isolde Goggin told an event in Brussels that the most the CCPC can achieve when it takes civil cases is a court order directing companies to stop certain conduct.

"We have been vigorous in using the powers that we have - for instance, taking court proceedings against trade associations for fixing prices, or by seeking injunctions to prevent collective boycotts. However, there are undoubtedly cases where we would have sought fines if that option were available," Goggin said.

"The lack of any kind of financial penalty in civil court actions means there is little deterrent effect in such cases: industry knows that it may as well try to engage in such conduct, because even if we intervene to stop it, they are not at a loss," she said.

"Any opportunity to broaden our enforcement tools is a very positive one."

The CCPC - set up in 2014 on foot of the merger of the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency - is currently overhauling its website. Its consumer website consumerhelp.ie will be merged with its corporate website ccpc.ie to "provide a single home for information for consumers, businesses, the media and general public".

Goggin said a key priority for 2017 was tackling anti-competitive information sharing. The CCPC is currently investigating alleged "price signalling" by motor insurers.

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