Shane Ross

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Cartels in the Motor Industry: What is the Competition Authority Doing?

Posted on: January 19th, 2006

I was a participant in the “Prime Time” programme which was broadcast recently and I was staggered by the evidence of a cartel operating in the car industry.

While the price fixing in that industry is bad enough, it has been suspected for a long time. However, the additional operation of a system of enforcement among these car dealers may not have been noticed or highlighted quite so obviously.

They have set up their own rules and courts and fine their own members up to €1,000 for breaching rules they have imposed which are themselves against the law. This is extremely serious. I ask the Leader of the Seanad to organise an all-party motion, debate or statements on this issue, because these car dealers have usurped the role of the Legislature.

The second issue raised by some Members, notably Senator Mansergh, concerns the Competition Authority. There is a tendency in this House to pay almost unanimous tribute to the Competition Authority.

I am not sure that the authority should be given a fool’s pardon in these cases where it always seems to be unable to produce the evidence for prosecutions. It might be a matter of underfunding but I doubt it. I believe there are problems within the Competition Authority which politicians, for some reason, are unwilling to recognise. However, we should recognise and scrutinise them.

The debate we are seeking is to ensure that the motorist, who is vulnerable to these big companies, big government and unscrupulous people, should not be victimised without the protection of this House.