‘May initiate legal proceedings’: CCPC writes warning to Beef Plan

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has written to the Beef Plan Movement, warning the farmer representative body that any actions it deems to be in breach of regulations may result in the agency “potentially issuing proceedings” against Beef Plan.

In a letter sent to the co-chairmen of the movement, Eamon Corley and Hugh Doyle, Cathal Hanley, a senior economist with the CCPC, outlines concerns the regulatory body has 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″.

The letter, dated yesterday, Friday, August 9 – seen by AgriLand – states concerns the CCPC has that “the actions and plans being considered and implemented by the Beef Plan Movement could breach competition law”.

The CCPC specifically highlights the Beef Plan 2018-2025 document, noting its phase one plans, which outline options as to how to control and disrupt cattle supply, through options including:
  • 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
  • Bring all the factories to a stop, block the lot, no farm unions, just farmers with no name.

On these, the competition agency states: “The CCPC is calling on the Beef Plan Movement and its members not to engage in any of the anti-competitive conduct listed under Phase 1 of the Beef Plan 2018-2025 as such actions could amount to a breach of section 4(1) of the 2002 Act.”

The state agency warned in its letter that any future plans or actions arranged by Beef Plan “must be in accordance with competition law”, advising the movement to obtain independent legal advice on that front.

“The CCPC will continue to monitor the activity of the Beef Plan Movement and developments in the beef sector closely as any disruption to the beef sector which has as its aim an increase in the price of beef is likely to have a serious effect on Irish consumers and the Irish economy as a whole.”

Outlining its role as a competitions watchdog, the CCPC reminded in its letter the powers under its remit, including legal proceedings, stating:

Where the CCPC forms the view that competition law has been breached by way of an agreement between undertakings – including the coordinated or collective withdrawal of supply by a representative body – the CCPC may initiate legal proceedings.

“Where such agreements may have anti-competitive effects but are not considered to be hardcore cartels, the CCPC may initiate civil legal proceedings to compel parties to stop their illegal activity.”

The agency offered the Beef Plan Movement “an opportunity to discuss the contents of this letter in more detail with CCPC official”, providing contact details to make the necessary arrangements.

Concluding, the agency said:

“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.”