A co-director of Duffy Motors (Newbridge) Limited, trading as PG Duffy & Sons at Naas Road, Newbridge, County Kildare pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to fixing car prices as a member of a cartel, in breach of the Competition Acts. The co-director pleaded guilty to two counts of authorising the company to enter into, and to implement, an agreement with other undertakings to prevent, restrict and distort competition by directly or indirectly fixing prices of Citroen cars within Leinster on dates between 24 June, 1997 and 18 June, 2002, contrary to Section 4 of the Competition Act, 1991 and Section 2 of the Competition (Amendment) Act 1996. He also pleaded guilty to two similar charges on behalf of the company.
The Competition Authority told the Court that the co-director was a member of the Citroen Dealers' Association (CDA), a group whose first meeting took place in April 1995 and operated in the Leinster region until 2004. The Court heard that members of the CDA agreed to implement a scheme in which maximum discounts were set by motor dealerships on recommended retail prices, associated delivery charges, accessory prices, trade in values and export prices of cars. The Authority also told the Court that minimum prices were printed up and circulated to members by the secretary of the CDA, which dealers were urged to print for their own internal use. Two market research companies were also employed by the CDA to seek motor quotes from members and report back. The co-director concerned has admitted to being a member of the CDA and to having served as its treasurer from 2000 to 2003.
Mr Justice McKechnie was told that two other members of the CDA have been prosecuted in the Circuit Criminal Courts in Dundalk and Trim for entering into agreements to fix prices. Each received three-month suspended jail sentences and fines of €12,000 and €20,000 respectively. Adjourning sentencing until 23 February, the judge requested counsel for the prosecution and the defence to make written submissions to the Court on sentencing principles applicable to the case.