Thursday, 11 March 2004

Questions (7)

Billy Timmins


8 Mr. Timmins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of prosecutions against publicans who breach price display regulations; the number of officers employed to enforce the regulations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8004/04]

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Oral answers (5 contributions) (Question to Minister for Enterprise)

During 2003 the Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs investigated more than 55 reports into possible non-compliance with the Retail Price (Beverages in Licensed Premises) Display Order 1999. In addition, ODCA inspectors undertook 214 proactive investigations. Four premises were successfully prosecuted for breaches of the display order in 2003 and proceedings have been initiated in seven cases in 2004.

Twenty officers are employed in the Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs in the general area of enforcement, including the enforcement of the 1999 order.

A total of 55 reports have been made and 214 inspections carried out. Does the Minister of State not think a high number of inspections is taking place, given that it should be standard practice to display the price of drinks? Does he agree this is enhancing the perception among the public that we are experiencing a rip off culture? Does the office need additional staff so that it is more proactive in seeking out publicans who abuse the legislation and ensuring prices are transparent?

I have not heard complaints in respect of the number of investigations under way. The requirement to display prices is generally being adhered to and where licensed premises fail to do so, they are brought to the attention of the Director of Consumer Affairs and investigated. Proceedings have been initiated in seven cases.

The problem still lies in the disinterest of consumers in ensuring prices are displayed. They should also be discerning in regard to price differences between and within licensed premises.

What is being done to make consumers more conscious of making formal complaints? The total number of investigations carried out by 20 inspectors was 269, which on average is not even one inspection per day per annum.

The inspectors have a range of duties in addition to this duty. The Deputy will be aware that the Tánaiste established a group to look at enforcement and awareness by consumers. As one drives from the west to Dublin, one sees great variations in the published prices of petrol and diesel, yet for some reason best known to themselves, consumers will go to the most expensive places, which are among the bigger stations. It is really a question of the consumers being discerning and being aware of the price differentials that exist.

Yesterday's announcement by the Tánaiste is a very welcome development which will examine further measures that can be taken to deal with price levels, which I agree are far too high.