The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has written to both co-chairs of the Beef Plan Movement warning them they may be in breach of consumer law.
In letter to Eamon Corley and Hugh Doyle seen by the Irish Farmers Journal dated Friday 9 August, Cathal Hanley, senior economist with the CCPC states:
“The CCPC is concerned that the Beef Plan Movement and its members could have engaged, or could be engaging, in conduct that potentially breaches provisions of the Competition Act 2002 (as amended) (the “2002 Act”).”
After almost a fortnight of protests at meat factories, the Beef Plan officially suspended protests until talks with factories and other farm organisations on Monday.
Hanley continues to write that the CCPC is aware of public meetings held by the Beef Plan over recent months and references these meetings and a document published on the Beef Plan website called “Beef Plan 2018-2025”, which he says outlines the intent “for the disruption of meat plants”.
A number of points listed in the letter copied from the Beef Plan document include:Not to send cattle to any factory on a certain day at a few hours’ notice. Not to send cattle to a particular factory at short notice. Not to send cattle below a set price to any factory. Farmers who had loads of cattle booked in instead of turning up with the load of cattle
would turn up with one animal in a jeep and trailer. Other suggestions. Escalate any of the above.
Hanley writes that these actions would raise “competition concerns”. Where the CCPC view that competition law has been breached they “may initiate legal proceedings”.
The letter also states that a person who “suffered harm” as a result of a breach in competition law would be entitled to “full compensation”.
Talks with CCPC offered
The CCPC says that it acknowledges the current economic situation of beef farmers but it will continue to monitor the Beef Plan, especially its demand for an increase in beef price for farmers because it would in turn raise prices for consumers.
They advise the Beef Plan to seek independent legal advice and confine their actions to legal activities. The CCPC also say they are available to talk and meet with the Beef Plan.
The letter concludes: “As a statutory body responsible for the enforcement of competition law, the CCPC reserves the right to take all necessary enforcement actions, including exercising its formal investigative powers and potentially issuing proceedings seeking appropriate interlocutory relief, in order to address any anti-competitive conduct by the Beef Plan Movement and/or its members in breach of EU and/or Irish competition law.”
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