Dublin 20th April – McCarthy Report recommends reform of regulatory regime.
The report of the Review Group on State Assets has recommended a major restructuring of state-owned public utility companies and an overhaul of the regulatory regime. The report recommends that the electricity and gas transmission networks should remain in State ownership but recommends that ownership should be transferred from ESB and BGE respectively to Eirgrid which is currently responsible for managing the operation of the electricity transmission network. The report also calls for the ESB to be required to divest some additional generating plants and recommends that the remaining business of ESB and BGE should be privatised. The report calls for a comprehensive review of the legislation governing economic regulatory agencies and recommends that any necessary legislative amendments should be enacted prior to any state disposals. It also recommends that the Department of Enterprise, Trade, and Innovation, which already has responsibility for competition policy, should become the parent department for all economic regulatory bodies, and become responsible for their supervision and performance measurement. The report also recommends that the objectives of economic regulatory agencies should include a requirement to minimise cost to the rest of the economy.
Dublin 3rd May – Government decides not to change sports broadcast list.
The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte TD has decided not to designate Ireland’s Six Nations rugby matches and Heineken Cup matches involving Irish teams for broadcast on free-to-air television channels. In a July 2010 submission, Compecon concluded that such a move would reduce IRFU revenue which would in turn harm Irish teams’ ability to attract and retain top players and compete with teams from other countries.
Dublin June – Minister proposes competitive tendering of household waste collection services. The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government has announced his intention to establish monopoly franchises for household waste collection which would be allocated on the basis of a competitive tendering process. The Minister has published a consultation document on the proposal.
Luxembourg, 4th October – ECJ judgement on sports broadcast rights has potentially far-reaching implications.
The judgement was in respect of a case referred by the High Court of England and Wales under Article 234EC regarding the live broadcast of football matches in the FA Premier League (FAPL). The FAPL had sought to prevent a number of pubs from showing live FAPL matches which were broadcast on a Greek TV channel. According to the judgement, individual consumers may purchase decoders in other EU Member States in order to watch sports broadcasts on Pay-TV channels. Commercial entities would infringe copyright by using such decoders to show broadcasts from other Member States.
Dublin, October – Study looks at impact of move to professionalism in rugby union. A new study on the impact of professionalism in rugby union co-authored by Compecon Director Patrick Massey, Dr Vincent Hogan of UCD and Shane Massey of Trinity College has been published in the UCD Economics Working paper series. Sports leagues and their members have often been permitted to engage in activities such as collective selling of broadcasting rights which would not be permitted in other areas of business. Such arrangements have often been justified as promoting greater competitive balance thus making sports leagues more attractive to fans. The paper compares the level of competitive balance in the three main European rugby leagues – the English Premiership, French Top 14 and Magners League – and in soccer’s FA Premier League. The Bosman case means that there is a European labour market for players in both sports. The fact that soccer leagues are organised along national lines has meant that the best players have tended to move to the larger country leagues resulting in a growing competitive balance in both national leagues and European competitions. The lack of such restrictions in rugby has enabled the smaller countries to establish a joint league which has prevented Anglo/French domination of the Heineken Cup. There is a copy of the working paper available to view or download.
Dublin, 12th October – Minister publishes Legal Services Bill.
Minister for Justice and Equality, Mr. Alan Shatter TD, published the Legal Services Regulation Bill, 2011, which proposes to introduce major changes to the regulation of the legal profession. The Bill provides for the establishment of a new agency to be known as the Legal Services Regulatory Authority which would be responsible for the regulation of the legal profession. Although the Bill was supposed to implement outstanding recommendations made in the Competition Authority’s 2006 report on the legal profession, many of the proposals go well beyond what was recommended by the Authority.
Kenmare, 15th October – Lack of enforcement, not sanctions, the real problem with Irish competition law says Compecon Director Patrick Massey.
Speaking at the Dublin Economics Workshop Annual Economic Policy Conference in Kenmare, Co. Kerry, Patrick Massey said that there was no need to increase the maximum jail sentence for cartel participants from five to ten years as proposed in the Competition Amendment Bill, 2011. Criminalisation of cartels had worked reasonably well. The real problem was the fact that the Authority had repeatedly stated that it could only bring one such case a year which meant that the chances of getting caught were close to zero. In those circumstances increased penalties were likely to have little deterrent effect.