The European Commission investigates anti-competitive conduct which has an effect on trade in more than one EU country. Once the European Commission opens an investigation into a matter it relieves the competition authorities of the Member States of their competence to apply EU competition rules to the alleged practices concerned.
The CCPC has also been, and will continue to, co-ordinate with and provide support to the European Commission in their investigation. Within this context, in July 2017, the CCPC assisted the European Commission in unannounced inspections at premises of companies active in motor insurance in the Republic of Ireland.
Section 9 (5) of the Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014 provides that the Commission is independent in the performance of its functions, including carrying out investigations of alleged anti-competitive practices.
As investigations and enforcement matters generally are part of the day-to-day operational work of the Commission, I, as Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, have no direct function in the matter.
In terms of the CCPC’s resources, the CCPC has 100 staff members (from an initial figure of 82 in 2014 when the CCPC was formally established), 29 of whom work in the enforcement of competition law, including investigators, economists and lawyers (from 21 in 2014). It should be noted that some of these staff work on other enforcement areas e.g. car crime and pyramid selling.
In 2018 the CCPC filled 23 vacancies across the organisation, this included for new specialised roles, including a digital forensics unit.
I am informed that the CCPC is active across a number of different sectors, with active investigations in the ticketing, insurance, procurement of school transport services and the bagged cement sectors. By their nature competition law and other white-collar crime investigations take considerable time as they are often based on obtaining evidential paper trails. In order for them to be legally robust, all the necessary investigative and procedural steps must be taken. The CCPC has secured a number of important outcomes in various sectors – including securing the first conviction for bid-rigging in Ireland and securing commitments from various bodies to address competition concerns.