Provisional political agreement reached by EU on empowering national competition authorities

A provisional political agreement was reached on 30 May 2018 by the European Parliament and the Council on a recent European Commission for a Directive to further empower Member States' competition authorities in relation to the enforcement of EU competition law rules. The objective of the proposed Directive is to provide national competition authorities (such as the Irish Competition and Consumer Protection Commission) with enforcement tools to create "a genuine common competition enforcement area". The new rules (if finalised (possibly around the end of 2018)) are designed to allow national competition authorities to, among other powers, have adequate tools to impose proportionate and deterrent sanctions for breaches of EU competition law rules.

Comment: If the Directive is formally approved and becomes law, there are a number of aspects of the Directive which will affect the application of EU competition law in Ireland. In particular, there has been a long-debated argument about the constitutional law impediment to the imposition by the Irish Courts of imposing "civil fines" on undertakings as opposed to the imposition of criminal fines on such undertakings. The CCPC’s view is that this constitutional law risk would be eliminated if Ireland was obliged by EU legislation to provide for the imposition of civil fines on undertakings that are found to have infringed EU competition law. There is also the possibility that the proposed Directive may eventually lead to the CCPC itself being granted the power to make a binding decision on EU competition law matters and to impose fines. The progress of the proposed Directive (both at the EU level and its eventual implementation in Ireland) will be watched with much interest.  

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For further information, contact Alan McCarthy, Partner, or any member of the EU, Competition & Procurement team at A&L Goodbody.

Date published: 31 May 2018