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CCPC blocks daa purchase of car park near Dublin Airport

Dublin Airport operator, daa, has received a blow with the news that the competition regulator has refused it permission to buy a large disused car park near the airport which it needs to relieve parking pressure.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) said it was blocking the sale of the former QuickPark facility due to concerns that the deal would lead to higher prices and lower service quality for consumers.

The CCPC’s investigation found the deal would substantially lessen competition in car parking serving Dublin Airport, as daa would own over 90% of the public car parking spaces if the purchase went ahead.

The CCPC said that because daa would not face competition for customers from any other large car park providers, this would have harmful consequences for consumers.

“Competition among businesses is vital to drive value, consumer choice and innovation,” said Brian McHugh, CCPC Chairperson.

“Our investigation found that this deal would eliminate daa’s only significant competitor for public car parking serving Dublin Airport and result in daa essentially having a near monopoly.”

“This would be likely to lead to higher prices for consumers because daa would not have to compete to win car parking customers.”

The CCPC found that while there are six hotels which provide car parking to airport passengers, these car parks are very small in comparison, with five of the six having a share of approximately 1% each.

It also concluded that the car park provides an important level of competition in the market for public car parking spaces near the airport.

“Without this competition, daa would be able to increase prices or reduce service quality for its car parks with limited consequences,” the daa said.

The CCPC also said that in the past, daa responded to competition from QuickPark to win business, through discounts and other promotional campaigns.

“If daa purchased the car park, this competition would be lost and daa would not face the same pressure to attract potential customers by improving its prices or service quality,” it said.

However, the CCPC said the car park was, and remains, an attractive and viable business opportunity for alternative purchasers.

The site is currently owned by property developer Gerry Gannon.

The 42 acres of land is situated on the Swords Road in Santry and was run for many years as a 6,122 space car park by John O’Sullivan’s QuickPark through a firm called ParkFly.

The property then became the subject of a legal dispute between Mr Gannon and Parkfly, as well as another company controlled by Mr O’Sullivan.

The car park closed during the Covid-19 pandemic in September 2020 but came on the market in 2022 with a guide price of €70m.

That autumn, the daa was made preferred bidder for the property and in March of last year the CCPC was officially notified of Dublin Airport’s plan to buy the site.

But in August the CCPC said it had extended the competition probe to a Phase 2 investigation, because it had decided more work was needed to establish whether the proposed transaction will or will not result in a substantial lessening of competition.

The CCPC received 18 submissions from third parties, 16 of which raised concerns about the purchase.

In December, the CCPC issued its preliminary findings to the daa and the owner of the site, explaining its concerns about how the deal could reduce competition for public car parking spaces near Dublin Airport.

The parties responded to the CCPC in January.

The decision is a blow to the daa, coming at a time when it tries to convince planning authorities to increase the passenger cap at the airport from 32 million to 40 million.

A shortage of car parking spaces at the airport led the operator to warn passengers that parking would be limited at certain periods as all its car park spaces had sold out.

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