The Competition and Consumer Protection Act established the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission. It took over the functions of the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency. The Commission is independent in the performance of its function.
The functions of the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency are consolidated into the new body. Its functions include
- the promotion of competition;
- the promotion and protection of the interests and welfare of consumers;
- the enforcement of and compliance with competition and consumer protection laws;
- investigation of breaches of domestic and European competition law;
- the setting of strategic objectives;
- advising the government, ministers and public bodies in relation to any matter likely to impact consumer protection and welfare or competition
The Commission may
- promote public awareness through information campaigns
- promote the development of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms as a means of resolving disputes in consumer transactions;
- prepare guidelines;
- review and approve codes of practice;
- co-operate with other bodies, including internationally
- undertake research
- support voluntary bodies whose activities cover consumer protection and welfare or competition
- carry out studies on any issue relating to the completion and consumer matters, at its own or at the request for the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation;
- at the request of the Minister, carry out studies or analysis into issues relating to competition and consumer protection;
- provision of financial information and education to the public;
- undertake studies, analysis and surveys in relation to the provision of financial services to consumer.
The Commission consists of a chairperson and members who are appointed by the Minister following recruitment under the Public Service Management Act for a fixed term of no more than five years. Members are eligible for reappointment.
Temporary members may be appointed where vacancies arise for periods of up to 12 months. Members may be removed in certain circumstances. The chairperson of the Commission manages and controls its general administration.
The Competition Amendment Act 2010 permits the appointment of temporary members of the Competition Authority. This was designed to cover the current and prospective vacancies arising as of 2010.
There are the usual provisions for the appointment of staff on terms and conditions determined by the Commission, with the consent of the Minister and the Minister for Public Expenditure. The Commission is to prepare a superannuation scheme.
The Commission is to furnish annual accounts, which the Minister is to lay before the Houses of the Oireachtas. It is to furnish an annual report in the same manner. The chairperson of the Commission is accountable to the Public Accounts Committee, certain other Oireachtas committees.
The Commission has the power to borrow with the consent of the Minister and the Minister for Public Expenditure. There is provision for arrangements for the exchange of information between the Commission and equivalent bodies abroad.
The Commission has a role in reviewing and submitting proposals for legislation related to consumer protection and welfare and competition issues. The Minister may consult the Commission in relation to legislative proposals in the area.
The Commission has powers to investigate, including powers to summons witnesses, examine on oath, require the production of records.
The Commission may require persons to provide information and appear before it. It is an offence to obstruct the Commission in the exercise of its powers or to give false or misleading information or to fail to attend, refuse to take an oath or refuse to produce records when requested.
The Commission may enter into cooperation agreements with other regulatory bodies, including the Commission for Aviation Regulation, the Commission for Communications Regulation, the Commission for Energy Regulation and the Health Insurance Authority in the areas of consumer protection, welfare and competition in order to avoid duplication and to ensure consistency between the respective bodies. They may engage in joint studies.
There is a provision for the exchange of information between the CPC and other bodies regarding offences under the relevant statutory provisions.
Relationship with Department
The Minister may give general policy directions to the Commission in relation to the performance of its functions other than its enforcement functions. The Commission is obliged to comply with directions and copies are to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas.
The Commission is to submit a strategy statement to the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation every three years, which is to be laid by the Minister before the Houses of the Oireachtas. It is to publish the strategy statement on the Internet.
The Commission is to provide a work programme annually to the Minister. The Minister may issue directions and guidelines regarding the programme, with which the Commission is to comply.
The timeline for notification of mergers and putting mergers and acquisitions into effect was amended in 2014. The timeline may be extended.
The legislation establishing the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission amends the Consumer Protection Act. The Commission may request information in relation to the calculation of levies to be imposed on financial institutions in connection with the funding of its financial services, education and information functions.
The Legislation adds a further category of prohibited commercial practices. It is prohibited to provide after-sales service to consumers with whom the trader has communicated before a transaction in a language other than that where it is based only in another language without clearly disclosing this to the consumer before the consumer is committed to the transaction.
The Communications Retention of Data Act 2011 is amended to provide power for the Commission to seek data relating to competition offences.
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