Role of Competition Policy
The role of the section is to promote competition in all areas of the economy within the framework of:
- the Competition Act 2002 (No. 14 of 2002) (The Law Reform Commission provides an administrative consolidation of the Competition Act 2002)
- the Competition (Amendment) Act 2006 (No. 4 of 2006)
- the Competition (Amendment) Act 2012 (No. 18 of 2012) (PDF, 45KB)
The Competition Act, 2002 was introduced on foot of the Report of the Competition & Mergers Review Group, which made a number of recommendations in relation to national competition and merger law. The 2002 Act, which implements many of these recommendations, consolidates the previous competition and mergers legislation (the Competition Acts, 1991 and 1996, the Mergers & Take-overs (Control) Acts, 1978) into one statute.
Parts 1, 2 & 4 (with some exceptions) relating to competition and the Competition Authority entered into force on 1st July, 2002. Part 3 of the Act, dealing with mergers and acquisitions commenced on 1st January, 2003, and provided for a number of significant changes to Irish merger law. In particular, responsibility for controlling mergers generally was transferred from the Minister to the Competition Authority, and decisions on mergers are to be based solely on competition criteria. (Please refer to the Competition Authority's website for further information).
An exception applies in the case of media mergers, whereby the Minister retains public interest role (Section 23 of the 2002 Act) in the decision making process. In addition, the Competition Act, 2002 (Section 18) Order, 2002 (S.I. 622 of 2002) which also commenced on 1st January, 2003 to coincide with the new merger regime, essentially disapplies the financial thresholds to any merger involving at least one media business. Therefore, the merger provisions of the Competition Act, 2002 apply to any media merger, irrespective of size.
The Competition (Amendment) Act 2006 was introduced to repeal the Restrictive Practices (Groceries) Order, 1987 which prohibited practices such as selling below net invoice price, boycotting and ‘hello’ money. Its removal sought to introduce greater competition into the grocery trade by allowing retailers freedom to determine the process which they charge their customers. The 2006 Act also strengthens the existing provisions of the 2002 Act by prohibiting –
- the imposition of resale price maintenance in regard the supply of grocery goods (resale price maintenance is the practice whereby manufacturers or suppliers specify the minimum prices at which their goods may be resold);
- unfair discrimination in regard to the supply of grocery goods. This is a reference to a supplier offering preferential terms to one buyer over another even though the transactions involved are equivalent in nature;
- retailers or wholesalers of grocery goods from compelling or coercing suppliers into payment of advertising allowances (eg. where a retailer seeks payment from a supplier in order to advertise the supplier’s goods as a means of attracting customers to the retailer’s premises);
- retailers from compelling or coercing suppliers into payment of ‘hello’ money (i.e. where a retailer demands a payment from a supplier before agreeing to stock that supplier’s products). The circumstances in which the practice will be prohibited include on the opening of a new store, an extension to an existing store or a change of ownership of a store.
The Competition (Amendment) Act 2012 strengthens the enforcement of competition law in the State. The Act’s provisions include:
- the maximum imprisonment sentence on conviction on indictment of an offence relating to anti-competitive agreements, decisions and concerted practices is to be raised from 5 to 10 years;
- increases in fines that can be imposed for various breaches of Competition law, including an increase in the level of fine for criminal conviction of hard-core offences from ¤4 million to ¤5 million;
- an amendment to the Companies Act 1990 to add non-indictable contraventions of section 4 or 5 of the 2002 Competition Act to the list of circumstances under which the court may order that a person shall not be appointed as a company director;
- enabling commitments given to the Competition Authority to be made rules of court;
- Section (1) of the Probation of Offenders Act 1907 will not apply to certain offences in respect of anti-competitive practices or abuse of dominant position;
- the specific inclusion of interim, interlocutory and permanent injunctions as reliefs, and
- an easing of the burden of proof for private plaintiffs taking a follow-on case for damages following public enforcement proceedings where a Court determines that an undertaking has engaged in prohibited conduct or practices.
The work of the Section is concerned mainly with the development of policy and the provision of advice on the application of competition law. The Section is also responsible for ensuring that the Competition Authority has adequate resources to discharge its statutory functions.
The Section also has responsibility for the following legislation:
Trading Act, 1979 specifically the issuing of
Occasional Trading Permit Application Form
- Casual Trading Act, 1995 specifically the amending of the categories which are excluded from the scope of casual trading. All operational matters, including the making of bye laws, the designating of casual trading areas and the issuing of casual trading licences are the function of the relevant Local Authority;
- Shops (Hours of Trading) Act, 1938 dealt with the law on matters such as public holidays, half day closing, hours of trading and Sunday trading in respect of shops. This Act is largely inoperative.
The following Statutory Instruments came into effect on:
22 February 2011
Competition Act 2002 (Section 34(11)) (National Transport Authority) Order 2011 (S.I. No. 72 of 2011) (PDF, 100KB) The Order enables a co-operation agreement between the Competition Authority and the National Transport Authority to be entered into.
21 December 2009
27th July 2007
These Regulations are for the purpose of amending the European Communities (Implementation of the Rules on Competition laid down in Articles 81 and 82 of the Treaty) Regulations 2004 (S.I. No. 195 of 2004)(Pdf) which give effect inthe State to EU Council Regulation No. 1/2003 on the implementation of the rules on competition laid down in Articles 81 and 82 of the Treaty (as amended).
These Regulations designate the Commission for Communications Regulation
(ComReg) as a national competition authority responsible for the implementation in the State of the public enforcement provisions of the Council Regulation as respects functions only related to the provision of an electronic communications service or electronic communications network or associated facilities. Neither the Competition Authority nor ComReg will be able to withdraw the benefit of a block exemption in relation to an electronic communications service or electronic communications network or associated facilities without the concurrence of the other.
1st May 2007
This Order which was signed by the Minister on the 21st March 2007 came into effect on the 1st May 2007. The Order revoked the Competition Act 2002 (Section 18(5)) Order 2002 (S.I. No. 622 of 2002) and it refined the class of media mergers which must be notified to the Competition Authority and the Minister. The purpose of the new Order is to eliminate unnecessary notifications where there was no actual media involvement, but which were required to be notified under the old Order.
20th March 2006
This Order commences the Competition (Amendment) Act 2006 which was introduced to repeal the Restrictive Practices (Groceries) Order 1987.
7th March 2005
Competition Act 2002 (Section 34(11)) (Health Insurance Authority) Order 2005 (S.I. 127 of 2005)(Pdf) Section 34 of the Competition Act, 2002 provides for co-operation agreements between the Competition Authority and certain other statutory bodies specified in a list at Schedule 1 of the Act. This Order commences the Competition Authority and the Health Insurance Authority's (HIA) formal co-operation agreement under the Act to facilitate the sharing of information.
1st May, 2004
Casual Trading Act 1995 (Section 2(3)) Regulations 2004 (S.I. No. 191 of 2004) (Pdf) These regulations exempt from the provisions of the Casual Trading Act 1995 the selling of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, gooseberries, blackberries, loganberries, tayberries and currants and potatoes having loose skins and which have been harvested prior to maturity between the 1st May and 30th September in any year. The exemption is only applicable to growers of the products concerned, their servants or agents.
Competition Act 2002 (Commencement) Order, 2004 S.I. No. 196 of 2004 (Pdf) This Order commences the provisions of section 6(4)(c) of the Competition Act 2002 under which it shall be a good defence in proceedings under Article 81 (1) of the Treaty to prove that the agreement, decision or concerted practice fulfils the conditions of Article 81 (3) of the Treaty
This change coincides with the coming into operation on 1st May 2004 of Council Regulation (EC) No. 1/2003 of 16th December 2002 on the implementation of the rules on competition laid down in Articles 81 and 82 of the Treaty under which the provisions of Article 81 (3) of the Treaty become directly applicable.
9th April 2003
Competition Act 2002 (Section 34(11)) (Director of Consumer Affairs) Order 2003 (S.I. 130 of 2003) (Pdf) Section 34 of the Competition Act, 2002 provides for co-operation agreements between the Competition Authority and certain other statutory bodies specified in a list at Schedule 1 of the Act. This Order commences the Competition Authority and the Director of Consumer Affairs formal co-operation agreement under the Act to facilitate the sharing of information. Under Section 40 of the Consumer Protection Act 2007 references to the “Director of Consumer Affairs” in the Competition Act 2002 are substituted for the “National Consumer Agency”.
Last modified: 10/02/2014