THE COMPETITION AUTHORITY has said it received a total of 31 allegations of organisations trying to forge illegal cartels that could potentially fix prices and force consumers to pay more for goods and services.
A cartel is an agreement between two or more competitors not to compete with each other which typically means prices are fixed at a certain level preventing competition and competitiveness in the market.
In its annual report the CA said it received 31 new complaints of criminal cartel behaviour one of which has led to a detailed investigation. Nine others are still being evaluated with 21 closed in 2010.
In total it received 235 complaints in 2010 with 47 of those still ongoing.
The CA said it is working with the Director of Public Prosecutions to operate a cartel immunity programme which is designed to encourage people to report cartels they are or have been involved in and potentially obtain immunity from prosecution.
It has so far resulted in 33 criminal convictions with fines totalling more than €600,000 and suspended prison sentences ranging from three to 12 months.
The authority also said it wants to see fines implemented for anti-competitive behaviour that falls outside of hardcore criminal cartels.
The report added that 2010 had been a challenging year with budget cuts and the embargo on public sector recruitment resulting in “substantially reduced resources”.