Ireland’s Competition and Communications Agencies conclude Cooperation Agreement

Ireland’s competition and consumer agency is the “Competition and Consumer Protection Commission” (the “CCPC”). 

Section 19(1) of the Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014 (the “2014 Act”) enables the CCPC to enter into an arrangement or arrangements (known as a “co-operation agreement”) with certain prescribed bodies for the purposes of:

(a) facilitating co-operation between the CCPC and the prescribed bodies in the performance of their respective functions in so far as they relate to (i) consumer protection and welfare issues, or (ii) issues of competition between undertakings;

(b) avoiding duplication of activities by the CCPC and any of the prescribed bodies,

(c) ensuring, as far as practicable, consistency between decisions made or other steps taken by the CCPC and the prescribed bodies in so far as any part of those decisions or steps consists of or relates to (i) consumer protection and welfare or issues of concern to consumers, or (ii) a determination of any issue of competition between undertakings,

(d) enabling the CCPC to be consulted in relation to any decisions by prescribed bodies which affect consumers or issues of competition between undertakings, or

(e) where appropriate, conducting joint studies or analyses of matters relating to consumer protection and welfare, issues of concern to consumers or issues of competition.

The CCPC may have different agreements with different bodies.  A co-operation agreement must include provisions:

(a) enabling each party to furnish to another party information in its possession if the information is required by that other party for the purpose of the performance by it or any of its functions;

(b) enabling each party to forbear to perform any of its functions in relation to a matter in circumstances where it is satisfied that another party is performing functions in relation to that matter;

(c) requiring each party to consult with any other party before performing any functions in circumstances where the respective exercise by each party of the functions concerned involves the determination of issues of consumer protection and welfare or competition issues that are identical to one another or are within the same category of such an issue, being a category specified in the co-operation agreement; and

(d) ensuring that no person is the subject of (i) proceedings (whether civil or criminal) under various statutes in respect of an alleged contravention of a provision of various statutes by more than one of the parties.

The CCPC may conclude agreements with any of the following prescribed bodies: (i) the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland; (ii) the Central Bank of Ireland; (iii) the Commission for Aviation Regulation; (iv) the Commission for Communications Regulation; (v) the Commission for Energy Regulation; (vi) the Data Protection Commissioner; (vii) the Environmental Protection Agency; (viii) the Financial Services Ombudsman; (ix) the Food Safety Authority of Ireland; (x) the Health Insurance Authority; (xi) the National Transport Authority; (xii) any other body prescribed by the Minister.

The CCPC (and its predecessor organisations, the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency) have long had a high level of close co-operation with Ireland’s communications agency (the “Commission for Communications Regulation” (the “ComReg”) (and its predecessor, the Office of the Director of Telecommunications Regulation)).  Indeed, some personnel have moved between the two institutions.  There has therefore been long established informal and formal co-operation between the two bodies.

On 11 November 2015, the CCPC and ComReg signed a cooperation agreement in relation to the CCPC’s consumer protection functions.  This is the first co-operation agreement which the CCPC has concluded under Section 19 of the 2014 Act.  The new agreement allows for high levels of co-operation including the ability to share some types of  information.  This will increase the chances of co-ordination and higher levels of co-operation. 

The ten-page agreement sets out the purposes of the agreement and these purposes include, relating to electronic communication networks (“ECN”), electronic communication services (“ECS”) and premium rate services (“PRS”) are: (i) to facilitate co-operation between the parties in the performance of their respective functions in so far as they relate to consumer protection and welfare issues; (ii) to avoid duplication of activities by the parties in so far as consumer protection and welfare issues are concerned; (iii) to ensure, as far as practicable, consistency between decisions made or other steps taken by the Parties in so far as any part of those decisions or steps consists of or relates to consumer protection and welfare issues, or issues of concern to consumers; (iv) to enable the CCPC to be consulted, where ComReg considers it relevant, in relation to any decisions by ComReg which affect consumers pertaining to ECN / ECS / PRS; (v) to enable ComReg to be consulted, where the CCPC considers it relevant, in relation to any decisions by the CCPC which affect consumers pertaining to ECN / ECS / PRS; and (vi) where appropriate, to enable the Parties to conduct joint studies or analyses of matters relating to consumer protection and welfare, or issues of concern to consumers.  There are two existing cooperation agreements (dating from 2002 and 2008) in place between the Commission and ComReg in relation to competition issues.  These agreements were entered into by the previous Competition Authority and ComReg and they remain in effect.  The new agreement is available at www.ccpc.ie.

For further information, contact  Dr Vincent J G Power or any member of the EU, Competition and Procurement team.

Date published: 15 November 2015