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Competition Authority and National Consumer Agency amalgamate        printable version
03 Nov 2014: posted by the editor - Ireland

The Competition Authority and National Consumer Agency have now amalgamated to form the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, the new statutory body responsible for enforcing consumer protection and competition law in Ireland.  

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD, said: "This is a major step forward for consumer rights in Ireland. We now have a single powerful watchdog, with a wide range of consumer, competition and criminal law powers at its disposal, acting on behalf of the consumer in Ireland. Today's announcement will make a real difference to the Irish consumer, and marks the culmination of many years of policy focus - in opposition and Government - on the consumer rights agenda.

"Today's announcement also forms part of a broader programme of reform being driven across my Department and its agencies which will see the total number of Agencies under my Department reduce by 41. This will result in more efficient and better public services being delivered to the users who rely on them.

"I want to acknowledge the huge amount of work that has gone into delivering this result, and wish Isolde and her team every success with their work in the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission on behalf of consumers and businesses".

Isolde Goggin, Chair of the new Commission said; "The mission of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission is to make markets work better for consumers and businesses. We will do this by helping to create open and competitive markets where consumers are protected and able to assert their rights when they need to". Ms Goggin added, "Competition benefits everyone: consumers, businesses and the economy as a whole.  We will address unnecessary barriers to competition and will support markets where businesses actively compete.  We will not hesitate to use our powers where we have evidence that is anti-competitive behaviour is occurring. Promoting competition, tackling anti-competitive practices and enforcing consumer law have the same ultimate goal - to protect consumers and that is at the heart of our role".

"With increasing complexity in some markets, new ways of purchasing goods and services and new ways of doing business, consumers need information to help them to make informed choices and to understand and assert their rights when necessary.  Informed consumers can make better decisions and we will continue to invest in our helpline and consumer information website www.consumerhelp.iewhich has had over 1 million visits so far this year", she added.

Ms Goggin said; "The Commission's remit, expertise and unique understanding of the issues facing consumers means that we have the tools to understand how markets are working and what consumers are experiencing. We will prioritise our resources and pursue action in areas where they will have the greatest impact. Our understanding of consumer experiences in Ireland will be significantly enhanced by a study of consumer detriment to be published by the Commission next month. The study, the first of its kind in Ireland, will quantify the extent and nature of consumer detriment across the economy. This, combined with our other sources of market intelligence, will help prioritise our work in the coming years."

Ms Goggin highlighted the Commission's new merger control procedures which will enable the Commission to better focus on transactions which have an impact on competition within the State.  The Commission is also completing guidelines to help small and medium sized businesses who want to engage in consortium bidding for public tender contracts.  "Later this year new guidelines will be published which will help SMEs who wish to submit joint bids ensure they comply with competition law" said Ms Goggin.

The new Commission will be responsible for ensuring compliance with new regulations in the grocery goods sector.  These regulations are aimed at ensuring balance and fairness among the various parties operating in this sector. Speaking about the regulations Ms Goggin said "We recognise the importance of the grocery sector to every consumer in Ireland and to the many businesses involved in the sector. In addition to our existing economy-wide remit and powers we will have additional responsibilities in relation to the supply and sale of grocery goods following the publication of the regulations by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation."

Link to the Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014 which established the Consumer and Protection Commission:

Link to Commission launch website:

Isolde Goggin is the Chair of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission. There are four Members of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission; Stephen Calkins, Gerald FitzGerald, Patrick Kenny and Karen O'Leary.  

Forthcoming Small and Medium Sized Enterprises Guidelines
In accordance with Action #248 of the Action Plan for Jobs 2014, the Commission is preparing SMEs on how to conduct consortium bidding in compliance with competition law.  The objective of this guidance is to provide assistance to businesses, especially SMEs, who want to form a consortium to tender for a public contract.  It will help businesses assess whether or not a proposed consortium bid, and the negotiations surrounding it, complies with competition law. Note that the guidance will not constitute legal advice. It is expected that the guidance document will be finalised and published in December of this year.

Forthcoming Consumer Detriment Study
Ipsos MRBI have been commissioned by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission to conduct a study to quantify the amount and type of consumer detriment experienced in Ireland over the past twelve months. The objective of the study is to determine a monetary value for revealed consumer detriment, i.e., to determine an estimate of loss incurred due to problems which consumers are aware of. It is expected that the study will be published in November.

Reform Programme
This move forms part of a programme of reform Minister Bruton has undertaken across his Department and Agencies, which, when complete, will reduce the numbers of agencies under his Department's responsibility by 41. This is part of a drive under the Action Plan for Jobs to put in place services which can meet the needs of the modern jobs-rich economy which the Department is committed to support.

This includes:
·        Forfás has been formally amalgamated into the Department of Jobs following the enactment of the Industrial Development Act. The staff of Forfás  forms the core of a new Strategic Policy Division within the Department
·        The Workplace Relations Bill will reform the unwieldy system of 5 industrial relations and employment rights bodies and create in their place before the end of 2014 2 streamlined bodies - the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court -
·        35 County/City Enterprise Boards have now been legally dissolved - independent legal entities with their own boards and administrative structures - and the creation in their place of 31 Local Enterprise Offices within local authorities, to provide better and more services to start-ups and SMEs in every county
·        Transport and enterprise bodies in the Shannon region have been restructured, and Enterprise Ireland and IDA have taken on the enterprise support functions previously exercised by Shannon Development in the area

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