‘We want to talk with the firms which do not lie in the tall grass, waiting to catch their’ competition boss Barbos Ireland

  • ‘We want to talk with the firms which do not lie in the tall grass, waiting to catch their’ competition boss Barbos Ireland
    Independent.t. E.
    Isolde Goggin is seeking to strengthen its powers. The head of the competition Watchdog Ireland wants to have the opportunity to listen to telephone conversations, interviews of suspects in custody of Garda, and the issue of fines for companies that break competition rules.

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Isolde Goggin is seeking to strengthen its powers. The head of the competition Watchdog Ireland wants to have the opportunity to listen to telephone conversations, interviews of suspects in custody of Garda, and the issue of fines for companies that break competition rules.

This is part of a strategy to strengthen the organization – competition and Commission for consumer protection (CCPC) is still in its infancy, born from the merger of the old competition and the national Agency for the protection of consumers ‘ rights nearly four years ago.

The main priority now is the food sector. New regulations relating to contracts between suppliers and retailers of a certain size, entered into force in 2016 – and CCPC is going to start checking to make sure that people are complying with their obligations.

“Groceries retailers above a certain threshold must have written contracts with their suppliers, and their suppliers are their direct suppliers are the people they are buying, not necessarily the person further up the food chain,” said MS Goggin.

There are rules regarding what can and can’t be in contracts – charging providers for promotion or for certain types of damage, for example. Annual reports should be drawn up.

“In the first year we were kind of set up the layout of annual reports, informing them about their requirements so that they become used to the idea of having contracts in the first place, and to make reports. We are now moving in the field of inspections.

“We’re really trying to meet here. We hope that there will be no charges, but of course, this possibility exists if you find that people are not compatible,” Ms. Goggin says.

Even leaving aside its everyday functions, such as merger clearance, monitoring the market for dangerous products and providing consumers with information, CCPC has a lot on her plate.

Current studies include possible violations of law in motor insurance, ticketing, and bagged cement sectors – and it’s only 90 employees as at the end of 2017.

Another 14 were recruited this year, the competition for more than 14 jobs.

Read more: Watchdog plots raids on grocery stores in new repression

“You’ll never get the head of the Agency say that they have enough staff, that’s for sure. We probably absorbing people as fast as we can at the moment. You get people and they can’t take effect immediately. They need to be trained, they need to work with more experienced people.

“Obviously, if we had more people we could do more, but we must create, we must absorb people into the organization and train them in investigative and analytical skills,” said MS Goggin.

The additional staff will help the organisation prepare for the new powers as and when they arrive.

MS Goggin is looking to make the organization more active and less “mail transmission”. It means getting out and doing more inspections, at its discretion, and not wait for people to send in complaints.

You have a few decent victories in the courts in 2017 – the first ever conviction for bid-rigging (the company divides procurement contracts between them) and the world’s first punishment with imprisonment for selling a clocked car.

Although she has suffered a reverse in the long battle with the CRB for the alleged abuse of a dominant position CRH subsidiary Irish cement, which the CRB denied. CCPC investigators raided in may 2015 the Irish cement plant and a dispute arose about the CCPC was entitled to investigate some of the materials that were seized.

Strings and winds its way through the courts and last year the Supreme court ruled in favor of the CRB, saying that some documents are not relevant to the business of the Irish cement and hence cannot be revised.

A new Protocol for these searches was put in place to avoid problems in the future, but the process of harmonization with the CRB which documents can be examined is still ongoing and, says Ms. Goggin, you may end up back in court.

Taking the legal route, whether it is for investigation, as in the case of CRB or proceed with conspiracy charges, is very expensive. Battles must be carefully chosen. But if more and more victories became possible.

Take, for example, fines. At the European level, of measures aimed at promoting competition authorities of the ongoing and proposed Directive looks to deliver in CCPC’s ability right of the company, on the basis of the civil standard of proof (balance of probabilities). The powers of prosecution of competition as the activities of the cartels, says Ms. Goggin, but she believes that the civil law is more appropriate for others.

“This is especially true in the case of abuse of dominance cases where it is not so much a question of the agreement [as one would see with the cartel, but also behavior.

“How can the firm implement its pricing policy? What are the rules, they wore their distributors? They are taking some steps to try to freeze the competition? They exploit consumers? It’s much more a question of economic argument and you will have a economic expert witnesses, arguing with each other in court.

“It’s just a lot harder to achieve the criminal threshold, where you’re talking about the behavior, which in some cases may be fine, but depending on circumstances it might not be.”

If and when a European Directive will come into force, it must be included in the Parliament, which means the ability to levy fines and even a couple of years. That, says Ms. Goggin give CCPC to ensure that the body is ready to take over power from the point of view of the presence of mechanisms for fair procedures.

He wants to rely on its capabilities when it comes to criminal cases, as well as, the ability to conduct wire surveillance, and interviews of suspects Garda.

The power to question suspects already exists in the legislation, but we need a legal act from the Ministry of justice in the search process this document will soon be kicked out.

Another area of the body, is the so-called gun-jumping – the completion of a merger without notice to CCPC, when the merger reaches the notification threshold. Potential case that surfaced last year.

“We’re worried about this, because we found that some people do not always receive up-to-date legal advice that the threshold to their obligations.

“This is a serious problem for business, because the problem with the merger is not properly notified is that this emptiness and this opens up a whole Pandora’s box in relation to everything that has happened since he was supposedly put into action. All their contracts are valid?”

That said, the body believes the thresholds for notification of mergers, CCPC is too low – it gives warnings when the merger was notified and sometimes they relate to a gas station. The Department of business recently started a consultation on this issue and CCPC stands for the increase of the notification thresholds. As things stand, if two or more companies involved in the merger have a turnover of more than € 3 million, it needs to be notified. The same applies if the combined turnover of 50 million euros. CCPC wants those moved to € 4 million and € 60 million respectively.

Wheels turn slowly when it comes at least until policy changes. Within two years, at least, the body wants to put in place tools analysis software, which can help you detect suspicious public procurement, which will go a long way towards helping to deal with any collusion of firms participating in these processes. Now the progress looks like it will be made with various government authorities to come together to understand how it will work.

“It can be frustrating at times, but if you connect from you will see the results,” said MS Goggin, pointing out that often the body competes with large companies with large budgets to spend on lobbying. “I think we’re seeing what we’re here for a long time, so we’re glad that if we do the job right, we’re not jumping on the bandwagon, we exploited the populist thing at the moment – we do solid research, and we make our recommendations based on good solid evidence and sound economic theory”.

With the impending quarter and month, the body in anticipation of a further burden on it resources. Major mergers that previously might have gone to Europe may be in her knees, because if the UK company is excluded from the turnover of the EU, the merger could fall back through the threshold of the EU definition. On the consumer side of the house, quarter, and month can also see the more quirky products end up in Ireland.

“The UK is part of a network of surveillance authorities the market and we warn each other when there are dodgy products coming century a Lot of things intended for Ireland, probably in Felixstowe or Dover, so many will automatically stop them,” said MS Goggin.

“But then, if they are not active in product safety, the EU will come to us, and there will be much greater increase, what are we supposed to do there. So we know what will happen with the increase in workload and we are just trying to plan with our Department, what the consequences might be.”

One of the priority areas in this regard is the conduct of inspections at electronics stores, where counterfeit chargers potentially present a risk of fire. More thorough inspections is also likely for vehicle sellers, regarding compliance with the rules on the mileage of the car, and a ban on the sale of crashed vehicles.

But all this talk about persecution and fines and inspections, MS Goggin said that carrot is an important and stick. This is part of the strategy.

“We want to look forward and grabbed the questions as they come, and even before they come. We want to make it big on conformity. When we have the resources, we want to go and talk to the business and not lying in the tall grass, waiting to catch them,” Ms. Goggin says.

It is part of its drive to create an “organization with big ambitions to make a difference, and to deal with those areas of people’s lives, where competition and consumer issues affect them.”

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