Tuesday 30 May 2017

CRH challenges Competition authority searches in court

ICL, a subsidiary of CRH plc, is involved in production and supply of bagged cement products. Photo: Bloomberg
ICL, a subsidiary of CRH plc, is involved in production and supply of bagged cement products. Photo: Bloomberg

Tim Healy

A subsidiary of cement giant CRH has brought a legal challenge to the seizure of certain emails of a senior CRH executive during a search as part of an investigation into alleged anti-competitive practices.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission was not entitled to "essentially run riot" in the premises of Irish Cement Ltd (ICL) at Platin, Co Meath, and just seize all material, regardless of relevance to the purpose of its search, Paul Sreenan SC told the High Court.

ICL objected, as "a matter of principle", to the seizure and retention of emails of Seamus Lynch relating to his role within CRH but had no objection to the commission examining emails related to his previous role within ICL, counsel said.

Mr Lynch left ICL in June 2011 to join CRH and, when the search was carried out in May 2014, was managing director of CRH Europe (Ireland and Spain), counsel said.

The District Court warrant authorising the search only entitled the commission to seize documents related to ICL, he argued.

Mr Sreenan was opening the challenge by ICL, Mr Lynch and CRH arising from the unannounced search at the ICL plant at Platin, near Drogheda, on May 14, 2014.

ICL, a subsidiary of CRH plc, is involved in production and supply of bagged cement products and the search was conducted as part of an investigation into alleged anti-competitive practises in that sector in the State, Mr Justice Max Barrett heard.

When seeking the search warrant on May 12, 2014, the commission told the District Court it had formed the opinion that ICL, from January 2011 to the date the warrant was sought, may have engaged in abuse of a dominant position in relation to the supply of bagged cement.

In their challenge, the plaintiffs claim the officers were not entitled to seize and retain any electronic files within a crh.com email account of Mr Lynch which were unrelated to the business and activity of ICL.

It is also claimed the Commission seized documents unrelated to any activity in connection with the business of supplying or distributing goods, or providing a service, and thus, it is argued, outside the scope of the search warrant.

The commission denies the claims.

It previously agreed not to use the material pending the outcome of the case, listed to run for four days.

Irish Independent

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