The head of an Irish state agency has been accused of undermining the law by calling for the ban on below-cost selling to be abolished, following last week’s conviction of Tesco and Dunnes Stores for illegal discounting (The Grocer, Jan 24, p6).
In a strong attack on the controversial Groceries Order, John Fingleton, chairman of the Competition Authority, claimed the ban was unfair to shoppers and damaged competitiveness in the Irish food industry.
“A system that fines supermarkets for reducing prices does not operate in the interest of the consumer,” he said.
“If this logic was applied in other sectors - clothing, for instance - it would make the post-Christmas sales illegal.”
But his attack brought a sharp riposte from Ailish Forde, director general of the Retail, Grocery, Dairy and Allied Trades’ Association, which champions the ban.
She accused him of “providing succour to companies convicted of breaking the law”, and added: “As chairman of a statutory body, he has an obligation to act responsibly, to show respect for the judicial process and not to undermine the law.”
Meanwhile, trade and enterprise minister Mary Harney, who has political responsibility for the order, has announced plans for a new board to advise the government on consumer issues and to promote consumer rights, “independent of vested interests”.