Ireland, and its Competition Authority, has seen over 20 convictions for anti-competitive behaviour. On 23 March, an Irish court imposed very severe penalties including, in the case of one individual, a 15-month jail sentence suspended for 5 years for alleged price-fixing in the motor trade. The individual was also fined €20,000 for entering a price-fixing agreement and €30,000 for implementing the agreement. A related company was also fined the same amounts.
Ireland has very tough penalties for price-fixing including prison sentences of up to five years as well as fines on individuals of up to €4 million and fines on businesses of up to 10% of worldwide turnover. While the Competition Authority may not impose these penalties, it is able to bring prosecutions in the courts or refer the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions who then brings prosecutions.
The key lesson for business executives is that no matter how tempting it may be, even in recessionary times, to exchange price information with competitors, however informally, there is a real risk that the competition rules will be breached, consumers will suffer and, ultimately, executives can go to jail. Businesses need to put competition compliance programmes in place to avoid such exposure. The indications are that courts are edging towards imposing jail sentences without suspension.