A carpet and flooring company, Aston Carpets, and its company director, have been convicted and sentenced by the Central Criminal Court for engaging in bid-rigging in the procurement of flooring contracts for major international companies between 2012 and 2013.

Cartel Immunity Programme

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (“CCPC”) conducted an investigation on receipt of information received from a complainant and an application made under the CCPC’s Cartel Immunity Programme. This programme is operated by the CCPC in conjunction with the Director of Public Prosecutions, which provides immunity to a member of a cartel if they are the first member to come forward, reveal their involvement in illegal cartel activity and fully co-operate with the CCPC’s investigation.

Investigation

The investigation established that an agreement had been made between Aston Carpets and a competitor to fix prices for certain tenders between 2011 and 2013. The purpose of the agreement was to fix the price of the supply and fitting of floor finishes and to share the market by over-bidding on alternating tenders. The CCPC found that there had been collusion in respect of 16 contracts, the values of which ranged from €17,000 to €477,000.

Outcome

Following the investigation, both parties pleaded guilty to engaging in and implementing an anti-competitive agreement contrary to the Competition Act 2002. Separately, the company director was convicted for impeding a criminal prosecution.

The Central Criminal Court imposed a three-month suspended sentence along with a fine of €7,500 on the company director who has also been disqualified from acting as a company director for a period of 5 years in accordance with section 839 of the Companies Act 2014. The Central Criminal Court imposed a fine of €10,000 on Aston Carpets.

Isolde Goggin, Chairperson of the CCPC commenting on the judgment noted, “Cartels are serious criminal offences. They can pose significant damage to the economy…It is crucial for the proper functioning of our economy that cartels are detected and tackled with the full force of the law…Cartels are, and will continue to be, one of the CCPC’s main enforcement priorities. Anyone convicted may be liable to either a term of imprisonment or a substantial fine or both.”

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