An investigation commenced by the Competition Authority (Authority) in January 2004 led to the successful prosecution by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in 2007 of a facilitator of a cartel agreement, Mr Denis Manning. Mr Denis Manning was convicted of aiding and abetting a cartel within the Irish Ford Dealers Association (IFDA). The distribution and selling prices of Ford vehicles were affected by this cartel arrangement.
Outline of Case
The 2004 investigation culminated in proceedings initiated by the DPP against Denis Manning in 2006. On the 30 January 2007 Denis Manning pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the IFDA and its members in implementing a cartel relating to the distribution of guide prices for vehicles to its 53 members.
The guide prices prevented any of the IFDA’s members from implementing deeper discounts to the benefit of the consumer. Other charges were also levied on vehicles in line with this agreement.
Where members of the cartel departed from the agreement, they were required to pay fines to the IFDA, as a means of punishing and stifling any competition on price.
Mystery shoppers were deployed and coordinated by Mr Manning to police the agreement. A collective advertising fund was also used to monitor the compliance of the participating IFDA members. The Central Criminal Court regarded these as among the principal reasons to impose a custodial sentence in this case. It heralded the beginning of a judicial stance in imposing sentences for competition offences in crimes committed to defraud consumers.
This judgement protects pro-competitive businesses that wish to work within a healthy economy.
Guilty plea, Central Criminal Court Cork, 2002 on the 30 January 2007
12 month custodial sentence, suspended for five years, together with a €30,000 fine