Authorised officers are appointed by the Commission. They have the powers and functions under the Competition Acts and Consumer Protection Acts. It is an offence to obstruct or impede an authorised officer in the course of the performance of his duties.
Failure to comply with a request without reasonable cause or supplying false or misleading information is an offence.
The Commission may seek agreed undertakings by way of enforcement, which may be made a rule of court.
The Competition Amendment Act 2012 seeks to strengthen competition law enforcement by the provision of new and increased sanctions. It increases the level and range of powers and sanctions available to the Competition Authority and ComReg.
In a prosecution for the principal offences under the Competition Act, the maximum fine on summary conviction is the Class A maximum of up to €5,000 and /or up to six months imprisonment. The maximum penalty on conviction on indictment is €5,000,000.
The maximum period of imprisonment is 10 years. These penalties apply to breaches of both domestic and EU competition law. Daily fines for continuing offences are up to €500 per day in the case of summary conviction for continuing offences and up to €50,000 per day in the case of convictions for offences on indictment.
The Probation Act may not be applied to competition offences. Where a person is convicted under the Competition Act, the court shall order payment of the costs and expenses (measured by the court) incurred in relation to the investigation, detection and prosecution of the offence unless the court is satisfied there are substantial reasons for not doing so. Any sums paid to the authority are to be disposed of by it, in such manner as the Minister for Public Expenditure directs.
Private enforcement by way of civil action may be taken for breach of the key prohibitions in the Competition Act on concerted practices and for abuse of a dominant position. Public civil enforcement provisions are provided under the 2012 Act.
The Competition Authority or ComReg may bring civil actions in the Circuit Court or the High Court by way of injunction or declaration. The court may require the undertaking to discontinue the behaviour and/or to take such measures for cessation of the action or abuse.
Directors, managers and other officers of an undertaking and persons who purport to act in such capacity, who authorise or consent to the relevant agreement decision, abuse (etc.), may be the subject of a court order.
Where the act complained of, is proved to be done by the undertaking, then each director and other persons making managerial decisions is presumed to have authorised it until the contrary is shown. The court may, of its own motion or on application by the Authority, order that a person who has committed infringements of the Competition Act may not be appointed as a company director.