The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has published its first annual report. The CCPC was established in October 2014 by the amalgamation of the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency and undertakes both competition law and consumer protection law functions.
The annual report outlines the work carried out by the CCPC in both fields from October 2014 to December 2015, and is a useful source of information on investigations opened, closed and ongoing during that time. Highlights include:
- Cartel enforcement: The CCPC investigated a bid-rigging agreement in the industrial flooring sector, which has resulted in criminal proceedings against an individual and an undertaking.It also opened a cartel investigation into allegations of a criminal breach of competition law in the aviation sector and continued its investigation in the bagged cement sector.
- Civil competition law enforcement: In October 2015, the CCPC secured binding commitments from Booking.com, a large online travel agent, in relation to its "Best Price Guarantee" clause which restricted hotels advertising on Booking.com from offering lower room rates on other platforms. It also intervened in relation to alleged anti-competitive practices in the provision of funeral services in the greater Dublin area.
- Merger control: Between October 2014 and December 2015, the CCPC reviewed 88 notifiable mergers. This was almost double the number reviewed in the corresponding period for 2013/2014. Seven of these required an extended review, and one was cleared on the basis of the rarely-used "failing firm" defence. Seven media mergers were considered. No mergers were prohibited, although remedies were imposed or accepted in two cases.
- Consumer protection: The CCPC undertook a number of investigations in relation to car "clocking", which led to enforcement action under the misleading advertising rules, as well as a criminal conviction under the General Product Safety Directive. It opened two investigations connected to Volkswagen AG's emissions declarations, and prohibited the placing on the market of unsafe hoverboards. It issued 33 fixed payment notices in connection with failures to indicate product prices, and 29 compliance notices relating to the requirement to inform consumers of their rights, including the right to cancel distance contracts.