A New Era For Irish Competition Law

Author:Mr Niall Collins
Profession:Mason Hayes & Curran
 
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The Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014 (the "Act") significantly alters the Irish competition and merger control landscape.  

The Act entered into force on 31 October 2014. As a consequence, the Competition Authority and National Consumer Agency have merged creating a unified competition and consumer protection regulator and which is called the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (the "Commission").

Whilst primary functions have not changed, the Act overhauls the prevailing merger control regime and strengthens the Commission's powers to investigate and enforce competition law breaches.

New Thresholds for Merger Notifications

Under the new regime, undertakings must notify a proposed transaction where, in the most recent financial year:

the aggregate turnover in the Republic of Ireland of all undertakings involved is not less than €50 million, and the turnover in the Republic of Ireland of each of two or more of the undertakings involved is not less than €3 million. Extended Timelines for Merger Notifications

The Act has significantly extended the length of time the Commission has to consider notified mergers.

The Phase I review period has been extended from one month to 30 working days.  If the Commission decides to open a Phase II investigation, the Commission has a period of 120 working days to conduct its review (extended from 4 months). Both periods are extendable where information requests are issued by the Commission or where remedies are proposed.  Notably, the Commission can now also 'stop the clock' in Phase II by issuing a formal information request within 30 working days from the date of the decision to open a Phase II investigation.

New Media Merger Regime

Media mergers continue to be subject to mandatory notification irrespective of turnover of the undertakings.

For a media merger to be notifiable, at least one of the merging parties must carry on 'a media business in Ireland', which is now defined as:

having a physical presence in the State (i.e. the Republic of Ireland), including a registered office, subsidiary, branch, representative office or agency and making sales to customers located in the State; or having made sales in the State of at least €2 million in the most recent financial year. It is important to remember that the Act now also extends the definition of 'media business' to include online media businesses.

Under the new rules, parties to a media merger are now required to make two...

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