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Following its recent passage through the Oireachtas, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton TD has signed a Commencement Order which brings into force the provisions of the Competition Amendment Act 2012 with effect today.

Provisions contained within the Act include the maximum imprisonment sentence on conviction on indictment of an offence relating to anti-competitive agreements, decisions and concerted practices is to be raised from five to ten years. A number of fines are set to increase including the fine for hard core offences which will be raised from €4m to €5m; the fine for summary conviction of certain competition offences will increase from €3,000 to €5,000; the maximum daily fine applicable to a continuing contravention will increase from €300 to €500 in respect of a summary conviction and in the case of a conviction on indictment from €40,000 to €50,000.

Furthermore, non-indictable contraventions of section 4 or 5 of the 2002 Competition Act will be added to the list of circumstances under which the court may order that a person shall not be appointed as a company director. Commitments given to the Competition Authority can also from now on be made rules of court. Additionally, Section (1) of the Probation of Offenders Act 1907 will not apply to certain offences in respect of anti-competitive practices or abuse of dominant position.

These measures are aimed at helping the Competition Authority to investigate and prosecute organisations that engage in cartels, price-fixing, abusing dominant positions and other practices which damage the interests of the consumer and the economy. The above act is part of a suite of measures being introduced by Minister Bruton in the attempt to tackle white-collar crime, bring down costs across the economy and ensure that consumers aren’t ripped off by anti-competitive practices by business.

The Minister said “if we are to create an environment in Ireland in which job-creating businesses can start-up, grow and succeed (…)effective measures[must] in place to combat anti-competitive practices which hurt the ordinary consumer, small business, and ultimately the economy”.