The Irish government has failed to act on the "rip-off" practices by firms such as Cement Roadstone Holdings, which the European Court of Justice found to have engaged in "serious anti-competitive behaviour", said Fine Gael’s enterprise spokesman Phil Hogan. He said CRH profits had been extracted from the Irish economy by means of a complex industry structure that was anti-competitive and anti-consumer. Countries such as Sweden, Britain, and Germany "have since levied huge fines against the cement industry, Ireland’s answer has been a stony silence".
Mr Hogan was speaking during a Fine Gael Private Members’ motion calling for reform of the Competition Authority to strengthen its powers. The motion seeks to outlaw predatory pricing and a 30-day deadline for the authority to reply to a complaint of anti-competitive practice. It also calls for a procedure for the possible disqualification of company directors found in breach of competition law; the publication of an annual report on the implication for competition where State practices inhibit competition; and the creation of a "super complaints" category so that these could be made by bodies such as the Director of Consumer Affairs.
Mr Hogan said the Competition Authority had not secured one significant or meaningful criminal conviction for breach of the Competition Acts since 1996. But Minister for Enterprise Micheál Martin said the authority was "one of the most empowered, proactive and successful enforcement agencies of competition law in Europe. It was also the first enforcement agency in Europe to secure a criminal conviction for a competition offence, and it has obtained five such convictions to date".