Berlin 13th January – German Brewers Fined €106 million for price-fixing.
The Federal Cartel Office announced that it had fined a number of German brewers a total of €106 million for operating a price-fixing cartel. The companies that were fined included Kromacher, Warsteiner, Bitburger and Veltins.
Brussels 29th January – Commission Fines Foam Producers €114 Million
The European Commission announced that it had found that the four major producers of flexible polyurethane foam – Vita, Carpenter, Recticel and Eurofoam – had participated in a cartel and imposed fines totalling € 114 077 000 on the four. Flexible polyurethane foam is mainly used in household furniture such as mattresses or sofas and in car seats
Brussels 10th February – Commission to Investigate School Transport Scheme?
Newspaper reports suggest that the EU Commission may launch an investigation into Ireland’s school transport scheme. The Department of Education pays Bus Eireann approximately €150m annually to provide school transport services.
London 7th March – CAT rejects Ryanair appeal.
The Competition Appeals Tribunal rejected Ryanair’s appeal against the Competition Commission’s decision that its 29.3% shareholding in Aer Lingus was anti-competitive and would have to be reduced to below 5%.
Dublin 31st March – Minister publishes Competition Bill. The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD, pulished details of the proposed Competition Amendment Bill which provides inter alia for the merger of the Competition Authority and National Consumer Agency (NCA). The new agency will be known as the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CPCC).
Dublin 28th May – IMO gives court undertakings to settle proceedings brought by Competition Authority.
The Irish Medical Organistion (IMO) gave an undertaking in the High Court that it would not “organise or recommend the collective withdrawal of services or boycotts by its members (i) as a means of influencing the Minister for Health and/or the HSE and/or any third party appointed by the Minister in determining either the fees to be paid to GPs for the provision of publicly funded GP health services or the other terms and conditions under which such services are to be provided, or (ii) in response to the terms that are offered from time to time by the Minister to GPs in respect of the provision of publicly funded GP health services”. The Competition Authority brought legal proceedings against the IMO after it had announced in July 2013 that its GP Committee had taken a decision to withdraw from participation in various schemes and that GPs would no longer provide certain services for free to publicly funded patients after the Minister for Health had reduced the fees paid to GPs. The Authority claimed that the decision was contrary to section 4(1) of the 02, and Article 101(1) of the Treaty for the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). The IMO also undertook to advise its members that they should decide individually and not collectively whether to participate in providing publicly funded GP services on such terms as are offered by the Minister. Compecon advised the Competition Authority in the case.
Brussels 28th May – EU Commission clears Irish mobile phone merger.
The EU Commission announced that it had cleared the proposed acquisition by 3 Ireland of rival mobile phone network operator (MNO) O2, subject to conditions. The proposed transaction was subjet to a Phase 2 investigation due to competition concerns because it would reduce the number of MNOs operating in Ireland from 4 to 3. The conditions require 3 to (a) provide network piggybacking access to two new mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs); (b) sell spectrum to one of the new MVNOs; and (c) to extend an existing network sharing agreement between O2 and Meteor another Irish MNO. Ireland’s communications regulator – ComReg – has strongly criticised the Commission decision to allow the merger to proceed.
Brussels 11th June – Commission Launches State Aid Investigation into Apple’s Tax Treatment in Ireland. The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to examine whether Ireland’s tax treatment of Apple complies with EU State Aid rules. The investigation was one of three announced by the Commission. The other two will examine whether decisions by tax authorities in The Netherlands and Luxembourg with regard to the corporate income tax to be paid by Starbucks and Fiat Finance and Trade, respectively, comply with the EU rules on state aid.
Dublin 31st July – Minister Announces New Competition Legislation will commence on 31st October 2014.
Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD, announced that the Competition and Consumer Protection Act, 2014 will come into force on 31st October next. The legislation provides for the merger of the Competition Authority and National Consumer Agency into a new agency – the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission. It also amends the timetable for merger investigations.
Antwerp 4th September – Compecon’s Patrick Massey Addresses European Sports Economics Association on Competitive Balance in Rugby.
The issue of whether anti-competitive practices such as revenue sharing and salary caps may be justified as a means of ensuring competitive balance in sports leagues has been widely debated in the sports economics literature. The paper found that the English Premiership, which has operated revenue sharing and salary caps since 1998, was more balanced than the French Top 14, which has lower levels of revenue sharing and only introduced a non-binding salary cap in 2011. The paper was co-authored with Vincent Hogan of UCD and Shane Massey. You can download the paper from the UCD website.
Brussels 1st October – Commission accepts Ryanair’s Charleroi Airport deal does not constitute State Aid.
The EU Commission announced that it had concluded that Ryanair’s agreements with Charleroi, Frankfurt Hahn and two other airports did not constitute illegal State aid. The case dates back to 1999.
Brussels 16th October – EU Commission rules that school transport scheme constitutes illegal State aid to Bus Eireann. It has been reported that the Commission has decided that that arrangements between the Department of Education and Bus Eireann for the operation of the school transport scheme constitute illegal State aid. The Department pays Bus Eireaan approximately €160 million per annum to operate the scheme. The contrast was never put to tender by the Department.
Cork 17th October – Compecon’s Patrick Massey warns of difficulties ahead for Irish rugby.
Speaking at the Annual Dublin Economics Workshop economics policy conference at the River Lee Hotel in Cork Massey said that Irish rugby had been very successful since the sport went professional in 1995. The Irish teams had performed much better than their Scottish and Welsh counterparts both on the field and in terms of attracting support. In 2013/14 Leinster has the second highest average league atendances in Europe. There were worrying signs that attendances may have peaked with Munster’s average league attendances having fallen by more than 30% in just four years. The real problem was the poor performance of the other teams which undermined the Pro12’s ability to compete with the other main rugby leagues; the English Premiership and French Top 14.
Dublin 28th October – National Transport Authority Announces Increase in Public Transport Fares.
The National Transport Authority (NTA) announced a further round of public transport fare increases today. In recent years, the NTA has approved fare increases well ahead of inflation which it justified on the grounds that passenger numbers were falling. The latest determination says passenger numbers may have begun to rise again but fares will still go up faster than inflation. Ironically the NTA announcement coincided with the publication of an article by Compecon’s Patrick Massey in the latest edition of Economic Affairs criticising the NTA’s decision not to introduce competitive tendering of bus routes. Click here to access paper on the Economic Affairs website.
Dublin 31st October – Competition Act, 2014 comes into force.
The Competition Act, 2014, came into force today. As a result of the Act, the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency merge to become the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission. The Act also introduced a number of changes in respect of mergers.