The recent publication of the Competition (Amendment) Bill 2011 helps Ireland to meet its commitment under the EU/IMF agreement to produce legislation in this area by the third quarter of 2011.
It also deals with a number of practical changes to ensure expeditious enforcement of competition law. Among the proposals in the Bill are the following:
- an increase from 5 to 10 years of the maximum prison sentence for conviction of an offence relating to anti-competitive agreements, decisions and concerted practices;
- large increases in fines for competition offences across the board;
- a body convicted of competition offences may have to pay costs of investigation and court proceedings for the first time;
- it will be possible for the first time to disqualify a person convicted of non-indictable competition offences from being a company director;
- a person convicted of certain competition offences will not be eligible for probation; and
- it will be easier for private individuals affected by anti-competitive practices to prove an action for damages against a cartelist, once public enforcement proceedings have successfully been taken.
Businesses in Ireland must ensure that they comply with competition law to avoid these heavy and onerous new penalties.