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Landlords rapped on the knuckles for threatening new charges after rent caps

The Irish Property Owners Association has been given a dressing down by the competition watchdog.

Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

A GROUP REPRESENTING thousands of Irish landlords has been given a dressing down by the competition watchdog after threatening to hit tenants with new fees in the wake of rent controls being introduced.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) announced today it has concluded an investigation into “potential anti-competitive conduct by the Irish Property Owners Association (IPOA)”.

The IPOA is a national association representing approximately 5,000 landlords across Ireland.

The competition watchdog said that it started its investigation into the IPOA after a press statement issued in response to the government’s plans for rent controls in the private residential rental sector.

In December, the government announced that it would target ‘rent pressure zones’, or regions where there is sustained tension in the rental market.

Officials said they planned to cap rent increases in the designated zones to 4% per year over a three-year period.

Garth Brooks tour fiasco Houses in Dublin Source: Barry Cronin/PA Wire

However the landlords’ lobby group reacted angrily to the move, releasing a statement that said property owners “were considering a range of potential measures, including the introduction of a number of new charges to tenants and the withdrawal from state-sponsored rental schemes”.

Coordinating business

The competition commission said today that competition law “expressly forbids a trade association from coordinating the business conduct of its members, including the terms and conditions under which they are prepared to supply a product or service”.

It said that in response to the watchdog’s concerns, the IPOA has given the following commitments:

  • To retract its statement and make no further reference to the contents of the statement
  • To inform members that it has retracted the press release and remind them “that the setting of rents and charges in the private rental sector are matters for individual landlords and their tenants”
  • To introduce a “competition law compliance training programme to members of the IPOA committee by the end of June”
  • To not seek to influence decisions of members or other landlords in the private rental sector “with respect to the setting of rents and/or withdrawal from State-sponsored rental schemes”

Compliance

CCPC chair Isolde Goggin said in a statement that her organisation “views any attempt to coordinate business conduct very seriously as invariably consumers will suffer”.

“The commitments provided by the IPOA allow for a swift conclusion of our investigation and importantly, ensure the IPOA’s commitment to fostering a culture of competition law compliance within its organisation and membership,” she said.

“While trade associations have the right to represent the interests of their members, it is important that they not only take an active role in ensuring their own compliance with competition legislation, but they must not allow or facilitate commercially sensitive discussions between their members.”

Several other trade associations, including the Approved Tour Guides of Ireland, the National Association of General Practitioners and the Irish Medical Organisation, have also recently been subjected to CCPC investigations.

Written by Paul O’Donoghue and posted on Fora.ie

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