A prices survey now under way could lead to an investigation of the two largest chains in the Irish market, Tesco and Dunnes Stores. The four month survey, which will conclude in December, is monitoring the price of 35 branded products, from Kellogg's Corn Flakes to Kerrygold butter, in 50 stores across the Republic. It is being conducted by the Irish Consumers' Association on behalf of the state's price watchdog, the office of the Director of Consumer Affairs. A similar survey recently by the same team found that that there was no price difference between Dunnes and Tesco on 32 of the 35 products monitored. That was seen as remarkable, particularly as a price war was supposed to be under way at the time, and raised questions about the level of competition by the two chains which have more than 40% of the I£4bn Irish grocery market. If the current survey produces the same result ­ those close to it say it appears to be doing so ­ then the Director of Consumer Affairs will be asked to order an investigation by the Competition Authority. The request will come from the Consumers' Association, whose officers say a prima facie case for an investigation has already been made. "It is extraordinary," said one officer, "that the top two largest multiples in the market should have exactly the same prices and exactly the same mark up on 32 of the 35 products surveyed. The results of the earlier survey, and the trend so far in the current one, certainly raise some very serious questions." The Competition Authority has been very active in cracking down on suppliers challenging the cut price milk being sold by the multiples. But critics, including the Consumers' Association, claim it appears less eager to tackle heavyweight opposition. "It is a lot easier to haul farmers before the court than to face the formidable legal and financial muscle of Dunnes or Tesco," said one official. {{NEWS }}