Watchdog finds bid rigging in cartel probe

Bid rigging, ‘car-clocking’ and selling of crashed cars were among the offences investigated, and in some cases prosecuted, by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, in its first two years of work.

Watchdog finds bid rigging in cartel probe

In its inaugural report, the commission outlines how one individual and one company in the industrial flooring sector were charged by the DPP with bid rigging offences following a commission investigation in 2015.

Isolde Goggin, chairperson, said their experience in investigating cartels showed that one of the most common forms of cartel concerns is bid rigging.

“If only 5% of procurement processes were subject to bid rigging, the extra cost to the lrish taxpayer would be in the region of €100m per year,” Ms Goggin said.

In order to detect and deter bid rigging, the commission is exploring the introduction of a screening programme for procurement processes which systematically searches for indications that bid rigging may have occurred, Ms Goggin said.

Other highlights of the report include.

- The commission secured binding commitments from Europe’s largest online travel agent, over its ‘best price guarantee’ clause that prevented hotels advertising on its website from offering lower room rates on other platforms.

These commitments mean hotels and B&Bs in Ireland can now offer different rates to different online agents and to consumers who contact them directly.

- In the retail sector, 19 compliance notices were issued, including to Phoenix Motor Company after an investigation found the company misled consumers by advertising false mileage for a car.

- The commission investigated the sale of a car bought from McCormack’s Car Sales Ltd, Dublin Road, Sligo when the buyer discovered, after purchase, that it had been crashed twice. McCormack’s accepted all of the issues and subsequently provided the buyer with an alternative car and compensation.

- Telecommunications ranked highest when it came to generating consumer contact with the commission.

A review of the websites of Eir (Eircom Limited and Eircom trading as eMobile), Expert Ireland, Meteor, Three, UPC (now trading as Virgin Media Ireland) and Vodafone found failure to comply with aspects of the Consumer Rights Directive, including failure to notify consumers of the cooling-off period during which they can cancel an order.

The commission also investigated 571 product safety cases and 20 consignments containing 33,819 products were detained, including toys, lasers and electronic IT equipment.

The consignments were deemed unsafe and prevented from entering the market.

About 1,400 smart balance wheels hoverboards found to pose serious safety concerns were re-exported to the country of origin.

The commission said that it continues “to find evidence of hoverboards with noncompliant and potentially unsafe plugs and fuses, as well as significant issues with the cables, chargers and the battery packs.”

The commission is also investigating two pyramid schemes and allegations of anticompetitive behaviour in the bagged cement industry which resulted in five searches involving gardaí.

A spokesperson for the commission said that material obtained in an unannounced inspection at the premises of Irish Cement Ltd is subject to legal proceedings.

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From florist to fraudster, leaving a trail of destruction from North Cork, to Waterford, to Clare, to Wexford and through the midlands ... learn how mistress of re-invention, Catherine O'Brien, scammed her way around rural Ireland.

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