Floor firm in price fix trial

An industrial flooring firm and one of its former directors have been sent forward for trial to the Central Criminal Court accused of breaking competition laws by engaging in price-fixing to win contracts.

It follows an investigation by the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission into tenders for work at a number of commercial properties, including the 15-storey Google European headquarters in Dublin’s Docklands.

Large-scale commercial and industrial flooring contractors Aston Carpet and Flooring Ltd and one of their former directors, Brendan Smith, 38, with an address at Greenane, Dunshaughlin, Co Meath, were served with books of evidence when they appeared before Judge John O’Neill at Dublin District Court yesterday.

Mr Smith and the firm face two counts of price fixing by allegedly implementing an agreement with another named company to prevent, restrict and distort competition in the trade of provision of floor and carpeting products and services by indirectly fixing sale prices for products and services provided by both companies.

It is alleged there was a deal whereby one firm would enter a bid of an amount in excess of the other. There are also two counts of market-sharing alleging they were distorting competition. The offences are alleged to have occurred on dates from January 1, 2011 to July 2, 2012, and from July 3, 2012, until April 30, 2013.

Both sets of charges are under the 2002 and 2012 Competition Acts and on conviction can carry maximum sentences of five and 10 years respectively, along with the possibility of a fine.

However, neither Aston Carpet and Flooring Ltd, which has a registered office at Charlestown Co Mayo, nor Mr Smith have yet entered a plea to any of the charges.

Mr Smith faces an additional charge of perverting the course of justice by allegedly telling another named businessman to delete emails knowing they were relevant to the investigation.

Judge O’Neill heard that the DPP directed they should be tried on indictment and was consenting to the company and Mr Smith being returned for trial to the Central Criminal Court.

Books of evidence were served by Det Sgt Joseph McLoughlin on Mr Smith while company director Alan Crean accepted one on behalf of Aston Carpet and Flooring Ltd.

Judge O’Neill made an order sending them forward for trial at the next term of the Central Criminal Court, which begins in October. There was no objection to Mr Smith remaining on bail set at €500.


Frits Potgieter is General Manager with Muckross Park Hotel and Spa.You've Been Served: Frits Potgieter, Muckross Park Hotel and Spa

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