The country’s communications watchdog has called for an increase in the level of financial penalties that can be imposed on companies for breaching industry regulations.
The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) said changes to the telecommunications regulatory framework in 2011 which drastically reduced the level of fines handed down for corporate offences was “a retrograde step”.
ComReg, which polices the electronic communications and postal services sector, stated it regularly felt hampered by the legal limits in which it operates.
ComReg, which regulates the electronic communications and postal services sector, including firms such as Eir, Vodafone, Virgin, and 3, said it regularly felt hampered by the legal limits in which it operates.
It pointed out the potential penalty of €5m or 10% of turnover – whichever was the greater – was reduced to a maximum potential fine of €500,000 under the changes five years ago.
“Such potential penalties are so low in the context of the scale of many of the operators in the telecommunications sector,” ComReg said.
It expressed concern the new maximum fine levels might not be sufficiently high to deter businesses from contravening regulatory requirements as revenues from breaking the law could run to several millions
ComReg added: “Therefore businesses could make a commercial decision to break the law, with any financial penalty being viewed as merely a de facto tax or levy, rather than an actual punishment intended to act as a deterrent.”
It stressed penalties needed to be seen as a deterrent not just to the offending party but also all regulated companies.
It claimed the restoration of the link between potential penalties and turnover which existed up to 2011 would significantly increase the deterrent effect.
“Improvements to its enforcement powers, both criminal and civil, would facilitate ComReg in maximising its limited resources,” the regulator said.
ComReg made its call for changes after a consultation initiated by the Law Reform Commission (LRC) to examine if the existing supervisory and enforcement powers of industry regulators are adequate.
The LRC has acknowledged various regulators may need more powers if they are to tackle white-collar crime.
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