Category: Archive

‘Payback time’ for price-fixers

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — Businesses involved in cartel behavior — price-fixing, market allocation and bid rigging — have been warned by the Competition Authority that it is "payback time."

Director of Competition Enforcement Patrick Massey said they had received a high number of complaints and tackling cartels is the Authority’s top priority.

"Cartels are the equivalent of theft by well-dressed thieves and consumers have a right to be protected against such behavior," he said.

He said the number of complaints since new legislation in 1996 indicated that he and his staff are operating in a "target-rich environment."

Massey said the authority had decided in the last few months to follow practices set out in their enforcement guidelines and recommend criminal prosecutions.

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"Files on three investigations have been referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions within the last year. In addition, the question of summary prosecutions, where appropriate, is being actively considered," he said.

"It’s time to get real. Those who engage in price fixing and other cartel-type practices know exactly what they are at. They are getting together to rip off the public and it is time that such behavior was recognized for what it is."

Massey said over the last two and a half years, the authority has instituted proceedings in eight cases involving five trade associations, one professional association and more than 30 separate undertakings alleging price fixing.

Massey said experience abroad is that "hard-core" cartels won’t be deterred unless they face severe penalties. It is evident from the volume of complaints, from cases taken and investigations carried out that there are reasons for serious concern that price-fixing and other forms of hard core cartel activity represent a very serious problem indeed in our economy, he said.

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