A&L Goodbody LLP
  April 10, 2018 - Ireland

Eight Recent Developments in Irish Competition / Antitrust Law

Increase in merger and acquisition deals notified in Ireland

In recent months there has been 27 merger deals notified to Ireland's Competition and Consumer Protection Commission ("CCPC") which is up 42% from the 19 notifications as of the same date last year.This increase is following a pattern of sustained increases, for example, there had been 72 notifications across the whole of 2017 which was an increase on 2016's total of 67.

Brexit casts a shadow on Irish consumers

The CCPC and Ireland's Economic and Social Research Institute conducted a major piece of research finding that the cost of living in Ireland could rise between €892 and €1,360 for the average household because of Brexit.Lower income households would suffer more because they would buy proportionately more food and drink imported from the UK.

Implications of Brexit for competition and merger control law are still unclear

As the terms of the post-Brexit arrangements between the UK and the remaining European Union ("EU") Member States (including Ireland) have not yet been agreed, it is unclear what will be the implications in terms of competition law.The main implications probably include: fewer Irish-related M&A deals are likely to be notified to the European Commission under the EU's Merger Control Regulation because UK turnover would probably no longer be counted as EU turnover; EU State aid rules may become inapplicable to the UK leading to some competitive tensions between the UK and the EU; and the UK could change the test for merger approval which could include non-competition concerns.

CCPC's insurance investigation progressing but drawing to a close

The CCPC's insurance investigation started in 2016 is progressing but it is expected to complete shortly and is expected to touch on issues such as possible price signalling.

Personal contract plans in the motor sector studied by the CCPC

The CCPC, primarily using its consumer powers, has conducted a study in personal contract plans (a form of motor financing) and made some recommendations but was not fundamentally concerned about the issue. The succinct study was conducted very efficiently and swiftly.

Consultation on household waste

The CCPC is consulting on how the household waste collection market works.

Undertakings obtained from nursing home trade association

The CCPC has continued its vigilance about the way in which trade associations conduct their affairs.For example, the CCPC has secured undertakings and commitments from Nursing Homes Ireland (a representative body of nursing homes in Ireland). Quite detailed undertakings were obtained to the effect that the association:

  • Will not organise or engage in any discussions or convene any meetings in relation to any collective actions by NHI and/or members of NHI, which would constitute a breach of the Competition Act 2002 and/or Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
  • Will not seek to influence the pricing decisions of its members or decisions relating the terms and/or conditions under which its members provide services to consumers of nursing home services in any of NHI’s future communications whether by way of advice, recommendation or suggestion.
  • Will, within 21 days from the date of the Agreement and Undertakings, remind its members, in writing, (and will provide theCCPC with a copy of the relevant correspondence) that they are obliged under competition law to decide individually the terms and conditions of the services they provide, including pricing.
  • Introduce a competition law compliance programme for the senior management and the Board of Directors of NHI and will report to the CCPC on the implementation of this programme within 6 months from the date of the Agreement and Undertakings.

This follows a pattern of other trade associations being asked to ensure that their activities comply with competition law.

Undertakings given by some universities on gown hire

The CCPC secured commitments from a number of Irish universities to change their procurement practices in the supply of graduation gowns. Following a complaint, the CCPC sought commitments to ensure that tender processes would take place regularly to encourage greater competition among suppliers and potentially lower the cost for students. This is a welcome sign that complaints to the CCPC may lead to action.