The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD, today published the Competition and Consumer Protection Bill 2014 and introduced it to the Oireachtas, after he secured Government agreement on the text of the legislation last week.
The legislation has three main components:
- Merge the National Consumer Agency and Competition Authority and deliver improvements in competition law to create a watchdog with real teeth. This forms part of a broader reform agenda within the Department of Jobs Enterprise and Innovation which will see the number of Agencies reduced by 41 over the coming months.
- Regulate certain practices in the grocery goods sector aimed at ensuring balance and fairness between the various players in the sector – suppliers, retailers and consumers.
- Update and modernise the law on media mergers to take account of international best practice and technological developments.
Publishing the legislation, Minister Bruton said: “This is a major piece of reforming legislation with three main objectives. Firstly, as part of the programme of reform we are implementing across the Department of Jobs, it will merge the consumer and competition agencies to create a powerful watchdog with real teeth acting to protect and vindicate consumers. New criminal investigation functions are being added to the significant powers that already exist to combat serious white-collar crime and ultimately combat higher prices and protect consumers.
“Secondly, we are introducing strong regulations and powerful new investigation and enforcement powers to ensure fairness between suppliers and retailers in the grocery goods sector. There is potentially a real inequality of arms between these players which can be abused in a manner that is not in the interests of jobs, consumers or sustainable safe food. Relationships will continue to be based on commerce and prices will continue to be set by hard negotiations – this is in the interests of consumers. However new legal requirements for record-keeping and the inclusion of certain terms in written contracts together with strong enforcement powers will ensure that these relationships are fair and sustainable.
“Thirdly, diversity of content and diversity of ownership across the media remains an important part of a healthy democratic society. We are retaining the basic model of current laws, based on the principle of avoiding intervention by Government in media ownership except in specific circumstances following procedures determined by law. This is in keeping with the recommendations of the Advisory Group established to examine this area. However it is important to modernise these laws to reflect with international best practice and in line with the latest technological developments, and that is why we are implementing in full the recommendations of that Advisory Group and making important changes to update laws in this area.”