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January

Dublin 4th January – CCPC Publishes Mergers & Acquisitions Report 2021.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission published its 2021 Mergers & Acquisitions Report. The report provides an overview of merger cases decided by the CCPC in 2021. 81 mergers were notified to the CCPC in 2021 compared with 41 the previous year. The CCPC issued 74 Determinations in 2021, six of which related to cases carried over from the previous year. 14 cases were subject to extended Phase 1 investigations while three cases were subject to a full Phase 2 investigation. The Report could be improved through the inclusion of some additional information on merger cases notified to and decided by the CCPC. For example, it would be useful to know the breakdown of cases between horizontal and vertical mergers. For more see our Blog post on CCPC Report.

Dublin 4th January – Minimum Unit Pricing of alcohol comes into force.

Legislation providing for minimum unit pricing of alcohol comes into force. The legislation will result in significant price increases, particularly for alcohol sold in supermarkets and off-licences, increase drink industry profits and reduce Government excise tax receipts. The measures have been introduced in order to reduce alcohol consumption. Alcohol consumption in Ireland has been falling for many years. Higher excise duties would represent a more appropriate response.


Dublin 21st January – Complaints Prompt Electricity Price Investigation.

Reports in today’s Irish Times that the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities is investigating complaints into ESB’s behaviour. Fianna Fail T.D. Barry Cowan and a number of electricity suppliers have claimed that ESB pushed up wholesale prices at a time when two power plants owned by rival operators were out of action while wind farm generation was lower than normal due to weather conditions. It has also been alleged that ESB submitted bids for new power plants that were too low to be viable to deter rivals. The ESB denies the allegations. Click here for more.

Dublin 30th January – New Competition Bill Published.

The Tanaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadker T.D., announced that the Government had given approval for the publication of the Competition (Amendment) Bill, 2022. The Bill proposes to create a new regime of administrative fines for breaches of competition law. The Bill also provides that the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) would be able to compel parties to notify mergers below the notification if the CCPC believed that a merger could result in a substantial lessening of competition.


February

London 3rd February – CMA fines Drug Companies.

The CMA has imposed fines of over £35m on a number of drug companies in relation to an arrangement whereby a competitor was paid not to launch a rival product enabling the incumbents to susbstantially raise the prices charged to the NHS for prochlorperazine tablets. According to the CMA the price per pack of 50 tablets increased from £6.49 to £51.68, an increase of 700%, between December 2013 and December 2017. The firms fined include Advanz, the private equity firm Cinven, and Lexon, all of which have been previously fined for competition law breaches.

London 4th February – CMA fines Meta for a second time for breaching an enforcement order.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced that it had fined Meta (previously known as Facebook) £1.5m for breaching an enforcement order in relation to it attempted acquisition of Giphy. Enforcement orders seek to ensure that merging continue to compete with one another and prevents them from integrating further while a merger review is underway. Meta failed to inform the CMA of resignations of a number of key Giphy staff, a requirement under the enforcement order. The CMA previously fined Meta £50 million for an earlier breach of the Order. The CMA issued a decision on 30th November 2021 requiring Meta to sell Giphy in its entirety after finding the deal could harm social media users and UK advertisers.


Dublin 8th February – CCPC Publishes Motor Insurance Report.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) published the full report on its investigation into potential anti-competitive conduct in the private motor insurance business. The CCPC closed the investigation, which began in 2016, in August 2021, after six undertakings, AIG Europe S.A. Ireland Branch Office, Allianz PLC, AXA Insurance DAC, Aviva Insurance Ireland DAC, FBD Insurance PLC, and AA Ireland Limited entered into legally binding agreements with the CCPC committing them to reforming their competition law compliance programmes. Brokers Ireland (formerly the Irish Brokers Association and the Professional Insurance Brokers Association) refused to give such commitment.

Dublin 18th February – CCPC Issues Assessment of Bank Merger.

The CCPC announced that it had issued an Assessment to the merging parties in relation to Bank of Ireland’s proposed acquisition of KBC Bank Ireland’s performing loan assets (including performing mortgages, commercial and consumer loans), deposits and a small number of non-performing mortgages. The Assessment sets out the CCPC’s preliminary views in relation to the proposal.


March

Brussels 11th March – EU Commission invetigate Google and meta.

The EU Commission announced that it has opened a formal antitrust investigation to assess whether an agreement between Google and Meta (formerly Facebook) for online display advertising services may have breached EU competition rules. The investigation concerns a September 2018 agreement, which Google code-named “Jedi Blue”, between Google and Meta for the participation of Meta’s Audience Network in Google’s Open Bidding programme. The Commission is concerned that the agreement may form part of efforts to exclude ad tech services competing with Google’s Open Bidding programme, and therefore restrict or distort competition in markets for online display advertising, to the detriment of publishers, and ultimately consumers.

Brussels 15th March – EU Commission Announces Searches of Automotive Firms.

The EU Commission announced that it had carried out unannounced inspections in several Member States at the premises of companies and associations active in the automotive sector. The inspections and subsequent requests for information concern possible collusion in relation to the collection, treatment and recovery of end-of-life cars and vans which are considered waste.


April

Dublin 7th April – CCPC to Investigate Tesco Acquisition of Joyce’s Supermarket.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) announced that it had decided to carry out a full Phase 2 investigation into the proposed acquisition by Tesco Ireland Limited of sole control of Patrick C. Joyce Supermarket (Headford) Unlimited Company. Following an extended Phase 1 review, the CCPC has determined that a full investigation is required in order to establish if the proposed transaction could lead to a substantial lessening of competition in the State.

Sport, Business & Management 11th April – Economic analysis of uRC published.

An economic analysis of the United Rugby Championsip (URC) by Compecon Director Patrick Massey and Dr Vincent Hogan of UCD has been published in Sport, Business & Management journal. The analysis concludes that the URC, which began as the Celtic League in 2001, has been reasonably successful, although several member teams have closed down and the majority remain dependent on their national rugby unions for financial support. Click here to access the article.


University College Cork 21st April – Patrick massey addresses 8th Annual Sports economics workshop.

Compecon Director, Patrick Massey, addressed the 8th Annual Sports Economics Workshop organised by the UCC Centre for Sports Economics and Law. He spoke about competition between sports leagues in the early decades of English football. Following its launch in 1895, the Northern Rugby Football Union, which became the Rugby League, adopted a number of rule changes designed to speed up the sport and make it more attractive to fans, in response to the growing popularity of soccer. Soccer’s Football League aggressively recruited clubs in Rugby League strongholds in the early 1900s. He also described how the Football League merged with rivals, the Football Alliance in 1892 and the Southern League in 1920.

Dublin 22nd april – CCPC to conduct phase 2 investigation of Uniphar acquisition of navicorp.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) announced that it has decided to carry out a full Phase 2 investigation into the proposed acquisition of pharmacy solutions business, NaviCorp Limited, by healthcare services provider, Uniphar Plc. Following an extended Phase 1 investigation, the CCPC has determined that a full investigation is required in order to establish if the proposed transaction could lead to a substantial lessening of competition in the State.

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