CCPC’s first annual report

Public procurement a priority

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (the “CCPC”) has published its inaugural annual report, which details the work undertaken by the CCPC during the period from 31 October 2014 to 31 December 2015.

Key highlights include:

Enforcement

  • 74 allegations of competition law breaches were reviewed by the CCPC and two large-scale formal investigations were opened. The majority of cases involving allegations of non-cartel anti-competitive conduct were closed following the completion of a preliminary investigation due to insufficient evidence.
  • In 2015, following an investigation by the CCPC into allegations of anti-competitive activity in the industrial flooring sector, the DPP decided that an individual and an undertaking should be charged with entering into a bid-rigging agreement in breach of section 4 of the Competition Act 2002.
  • In October 2015 the CCPC secured binding commitments from Europe’s largest online travel agent, Booking.com, in relation to its “Best Price Guarantee” clause that prevented hotels advertising on Booking.com from offering lower room rates on other platforms, or on offline booking channels. These commitments mean that accommodation providers in Ireland can now offer different rates to different online agents and to consumers who contact them directly.
  • The CCPC opened a cartel investigation into allegations of a criminal breach of competition law in the aviation sector. As part of this investigation, authorised officers of the CCPC conducted a search in the sector. The investigation is ongoing.
  • Significant resources were, and continue to be, concentrated on an investigation into allegations of anti-competitive behaviour in the bagged cement industry. The CCPC carried out five dawn raids in this investigation and almost 40 CCPC staff were involved.

Mergers

  • 88 mergers were assessed; eight of which required either an extended Phase 1 investigation or a Phase 2 investigation.
  • The CCPC is in the process of reviewing the financial threshold levels and is discussing them with the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.
  • For Phase 1 mergers which raised no competition issues, the CCPC took on average 24 working days to issue a Determination.
  • For Phase 2 mergers, the CCPC took on average 103 working days to issue a Determination.
  • The Baxter Healthcare Limited / Fannin Compounding merger was the first case in which the CCPC (or its predecessor organisation) cleared a notified merger where the “failing firm” defence was used.

Public procurement a priority

Isolde Goggin, Chairperson of the CCPC, has recently stated that an ongoing priority for the CCPC is public procurement. The CCPC’s experience in investigating cartels has shown that one of the most common forms of cartel concerns bid-rigging. To both detect and deter bid-rigging, the CCPC is exploring the introduction of a screening programme for procurement processes which systematically searches for indications that bid-rigging may have occurred.