The Competition and Consumer Protection Act ("Act") was signed by the President on 28 July and is scheduled to come into force on 31 October 2014. The Act contains important reforms including:
Merger of the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency to create a new body, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission ("CCPC"); New merger notification thresholds and procedural changes to the merger control regime; Fundamental restructuring of the media merger regime which will be commenced separately by the Minister for Communications; Creation of a new competition offence and strengthened enforcement powers; and New provisions to prohibit certain unfair trading practices between businesses in the groceries sector. Merger of the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency
The CCPC will comprise the current Chairperson of the Competition Authority and a maximum of six members, including the three current Members of the Competition Authority and the Chief Executive of the National Consumer Agency. The statutory functions of the CCPC are the same as the originating bodies, namely, to promote competition and consumer welfare, in particular by enforcing competition and consumer laws.
Changes to Merger Control Regime - new thresholds and procedures
The Act significantly amends the financial thresholds, certain procedures and time periods that form part of the current Irish merger control regime. The substantive test against which a merger or acquisition is reviewed remains unchanged (ie, whether it is likely to lead to a substantial lessening of competition in the State).
New financial thresholds: Mergers or acquisitions now require prior notification where: (i) the aggregate turnover in the State of the undertakings involved is not less than 50 million, and (ii) the turnover in the State of each of two or more of the undertakings involved is not less than 3 million. The alteration to the current financial thresholds represent a major change from the existing regime, in place since 2003, which requires each of two of the undertakings involved to have worldwide turnover of 40 million with both undertakings carrying on business in the State and one undertaking having turnover of 40 million in the State. It is hoped that the new financial thresholds will only capture mergers that have a strong nexus to the State and eliminate the notification requirement for some 'foreign to foreign' mergers.