Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Questions (59)

Derek Keating

Question:

59. Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will consider regulation underpinning consumer law or meaningful legislation to protect the consumer in view of the practice by retailers and multiples, particularly from the UK, of increasing substantially the price of their goods far in excess of the exchange rate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33278/13]

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Written answers (Question to Jobs)

The price of goods and services as and between Member States of the European Union can differ for a variety of reasons. Insofar as prices in this jurisdiction are concerned, the European Communities (Requirements to Indicate Product Prices) Regulations 2002 (S.I. No. 639 of 2002) require traders to indicate the selling price in Euros of products offered for sale. The Regulations, which are enforced by the National Consumer Agency (NCA), do not prevent traders from indicating the price of those goods in other currencies such as Sterling, so long as the Euro price is indicated.

I am aware that some goods in addition to carrying the mandatory Euro price also carry a Sterling Price indication. I also am aware of concerns that have been raised in the past in relation to differentials as and between the sterling and euro prices for certain dual priced goods. Where there is a significant difference between the euro price and the sterling price for a good, it is primarily a matter for the trader concerned to explain to his/her customers why he/she is imposing such different prices. I would encourage any consumer who is concerned in relation to the differential between the euro and sterling prices for goods in particular retail outlets to demand an explanation from the retailers concerned as to the reasons for such differentials. If consumers are unhappy in relation to the differential in prices or the explanation for such differentials, they may wish to seek better value elsewhere.

In this regard the National Consumer Agency, as part of its statutory mandate, conducts regular price comparison surveys to provide consumers with information as to the different price offerings that are available in the marketplace. Evidence available to the Agency shows that consumers have become much more discerning in relation to their shopping habits, are actively seeking better value for money and that price is becoming a pre-eminent determinant in relation to where they do their shopping. Consumers can and are demonstrating their willingness to positively seek out value and are not prepared to give their custom to traders, who they do not believe offer value for money.

As regards general price comparisons between this country and the UK, the most recent Central Statistics Office’s Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices, which is the accepted measure for comparing price inflation across the EU, found that prices in Ireland had risen by 0.5% in the 12 months to April 2013, whereas prices in the UK had risen by 2.4% in the same period. It is clear, therefore, that we are becoming more competitive price wise in comparison with the UK. This improvement in our competitiveness is most welcome, not least by consumers, and follows on from the specific measures taken by the Government to restore national competitiveness. The Government is fully committed to pursuing the competitiveness agenda, so as to ensure that Irish consumers receive and can expect to receive a fair deal in the goods and services that they buy.