Matheson responded to the recently closed public consultation on certain aspects of the Competition (Amendment) Bill 2021.
While the main purpose of the Bill is to implement what is widely known as the ECN+ Directive, the public consultation focused only on the other purpose of the Bill which is to increase the Irish competition regulator’s enforcement powers in relation to both Irish laws on merger control and anti-competitive conduct in certain respects. More specifically, Matheson responded to questions in the public consultation on the following proposals to enhance competition regulatory powers:
- Create a new office of 'bid-rigging', a behaviour which is currently widely understood to be anti-competitive conduct prohibited by Section 4 of the Competition Act 2002 (as amended) and Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU;
- Empower the CCPC (in addition to the DPP) to take lower court prosecutions for gun jumping offences, noting that the only gun-jumping offence under the Competition Act 2002 is failure to notify before closing (rather than closing before regulatory approval issues);
- Empower the CCPC to issue ‘hold-separate’ and ‘unwinding’ orders in respect of mergers reviewed by it, including below-threshold mergers which were not mandatorily notifiable to it;
- Empower the CCPC power to conduct covert surveillance and to intercept communications services, in order to enhance its powers to uncover cartel behaviour etc.