Landlords have been slapped down by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) after threatening to hike tenant’s charges in lieu of raising rents.
The Irish Property Owners Association (IPOA) has been ordered to retract a press statement issued in December where members threatened to withdraw from State-sponsored rental schemes, impose service charges and registration fees and ask tenants to contribute to the Local Property Tax, which must be paid by owners.
It has also been told to make no further reference to the statement, either publicly or among its 5,000 members; to inform members that it has been retracted and to introduce a competition law compliance training programme.
The threat came after the Government introduced limits on rental increases in so-called ‘rent pressure zones’ aimed at tackling the high cost of renting a home.
The IPOA’s statement prompted the CCPC investigation which launched in December.
It said that competition “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.
CCPC chairperson Isolde Goggin said: “The CCPC views any attempt to co-ordinate business conduct very seriously as invariably consumers will suffer. Following the release of the IPOA’s media statement in December 2016, we opened an investigation and we have worked with the IPOA to bring about an effective and efficient resolution.
“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. This investigation sends a warning to all trade associations and businesses that they must comply with competition legislation.”