Ireland: Ireland's competition watchdog will go to the High Court in July 2015 as part of its probe into alleged anti-competitive practices in the cement industry.
In May 2015, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) seized thousands of documents when it raided the offices of Irish Cement, a subsidiary of CRH, Ireland's largest listed company. It also visited the offices of several other companies. The CCPC will ask the court in July 2015 to rule on which of the documents seized it is allowed use to build its case, as some of the material could constitute privileged information, such as legal advice. The watchdog has launched an investigation into whether Irish Cement has abused its dominant position in the market, which the company denies.
The commission has confirmed that it seeks High Court approval to filter the material it seized from the CRH subsidiary. "When it conducts such searches, the commission is entitled to compel the target business to disclose information to it even if the target claims that the information in question contains legally privileged material," said the CCPC. The commission said it had, "Made an application to the High Court seeking a determination as to whether certain information seized from Irish Cement during the search operation on 14 May 2015 constitutes legally privileged material." The CCPC is obliged to keep the information confidential until it gets such a determination. It is understood that the documents seized have not yet been handed over to the investigating team, pending the High Court determination.
Irish Cement has previously stated that it fully-facilitated the 'raid' on its premises and is cooperating fully with the CCPC investigation. The commission's investigation is focused on the Euro50m/yr bagged-cement sector. The commission has stressed that the investigation could take some time to complete before any further legal action, if any, is taken.
The CCPC stressed that next month's planned court hearing is simply to help it filter out Irish Cement's legal advice and does not mean that it has decided to prosecute. "For the avoidance of doubt, the commission has not instituted High Court proceedings against Irish Cement for any breach of competition law," it said.