Ireland Toughens its Competition Law Enforcement

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On September 29, 2011, Ireland’s Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, published a new competition bill (The Competition (Amendment) Bill 2011). This bill includes measures aimed to further enhance the Irish Competition Authority’s competition law enforcement powers. Among the key changes are an increase in the criminal sanctions for hardcore anticompetitive practices from five to ten years imprisonment, director disqualification and an increase in the maximum amount of fines.

Background on competition law enforcement in Ireland

Criminal penalties for competition law infringements were introduced in Ireland in 1996 by an amendment to the Competition Act 1991 which provided for fines and imprisonment of up to two years for competition law infringements. The Competition Act 2002 (Competition Act) replaced these and increased the maximum penalties that may be imposed for cartel activity to a fine of euro 3,000 and/or six months imprisonment on summary conviction; and a fine of euro 4 million or 10 percent of turnover (whichever is the greater) and/or five years imprisonment for conviction on indictment. Not only did this raise the prospect of jail terms for those involved in cartel activity, but strengthened enforcement by enabling under Irish criminal law the arrest and questioning by the Irish police of those suspected of such activity.

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