The Irish Competition Authority recently published its latest Annual Report, setting out developments in the field of competition law in Ireland during the course of 2008.
Highlights of the Competition Authority's activities in 2008 include:
Enforcing Competition Law
- 4 criminal convictions secured in the Citroen motor dealers' alleged cartel case.
- 3 further guilty pleas entered in the Citroen motor dealers' alleged cartel case.
- 9 additional prosecutions before the Courts in the Citroen motors dealers' alleged cartel case.
- Prosecutions commenced against 11 defendants in two separate cases involving alleged bid rigging.
- 7 search warrants executed in 2008.
- In relation to the Beef Industry Development Society (BIDS) case, the European Court of Justice issued a preliminary ruling that an agreement among competitors to coordinate industry consolidation can have as its object the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition in breach of Article 81(1). The matter is now back before the Supreme Court.
Assessment of Mergers and Acquisitions
- The number of mergers notified to the Competition Authority decreased to 38 in 2008, from 72 in 2007.
- 36 of the 38 mergers received during 2008 were cleared during the initial (phase 1) investigation, usually within one calendar month.
- The Competition Authority initiated two full (phase 2) investigations, one of which was blocked (i.e. Kerry/Breeo – this is the subject of an appeal to the High Court in respect of which judgment is expected shortly).
- 2008 saw a decrease in the number of mergers involving media businesses that were notified to the Competition Authority. There were 5 such mergers notified in 2008, compared with 15 in 2007.
- Publication of a comprehensive report on the veterinary profession which found that a restriction on advertising and a lack of transparency regarding pricing is restricting competition for consumers.
- 3 in-depth reports published as part of the Grocery Monitor Project which examined market structure and competition at the wholesale and retail levels, retail pricing trends and the effects of the planning system on expansion and entry at the retail level.
- Submission made by the Competition Authority to the Irish Government's Alcohol Advisory Group, focusing on the manner and conditions of the sale of alcohol products and below unit-cost selling and special promotions, recommending the Government avoid the introduction of a ban on below unit-unit cost selling of alcohol, which would only serve to protect the profits of alcohol sellers.
The Competition Authority's latest Annual Report can be accessed via the below link: