Written Answers. - Cable Television.

Nora Owen

Question:

199 Mrs. Owen asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if her attention has been drawn to the fact that a cable company has been taken over by another cable company (details supplied) thus creating a monopoly situation; if the Competition Authority has examined the issue of cable television provision; if not, if her Department will undertake to examine the current situation to ascertain if any competition rules are being breached; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20132/00]

In July 1999 I was notified, pursuant to the Merger and Takeover (Control) Acts, 1978-1996, of the proposed acquisition by Princes Holdings Limited, trading under the name Irish Multichannel, of Suir Nore Relays Limited. In September, 1999 I was notified of a related proposal under the Acts, which involved Liberty Media AL Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Liberty Media Corporation, acquiring Aringour Limited, which owned Cable Management Ireland Limited at the time. Liberty Media has a 50% holding in Princes Holdings.

Following consideration of the proposals under the Merger and Takeover (Control) Acts, 1978-1996, I referred both proposals to the Compe tition Authority for further investigation pursuant to section 7 of the Mergers Act. The Competition Authority carried out an investigation, and recommended that both proposals proceed without conditions. I accepted the authority's recommendations and allowed the proposals to proceed under the Merger Acts.
With regard to breaches of competition law, this area is governed by the Competition Act, 1991, and the Competition (Amendment) Act, 1996. The Competition Act, 1991, prohibits anti-competitive practices and the abuse of a dominant position. Under section 6 of the Act, persons aggrieved in consequence of anti-competitive activity have the right to pursue a civil action for damages. The Competition (Amendment) Act, 1996, introduced public enforcement provisions and penalties for breaches of competition law. To enforce the competition acts, a Director of Competition Enforcement was appointed to the Competition Authority to whom aggrieved persons may make a complaint requesting that the alleged breach be investigated.