The Irish Consumers’ Association has called for an investigation of the supermarket sector in the Republic, following a survey that found food prices in Dublin were much higher than elsewhere in the country.
Shoppers in Dublin pay 33% more for a 10kg bag of potatoes, according to the survey by the Central Statistics Office (CSO). Steak, lamb chops and cooked ham were 17% dearer, it found, with fish 16% and back rashers 11%. Of some 70 items surveyed, two-thirds were more expensive.
Chairman of the Consumers’ Association Michael Kilcoyne, who claimed Dublin was now “the rip-off capital” of Ireland, said the findings merited a probe into supermarkets. “The Competition Authority should be ordered by government to investigate if there is a cartel of some kind. The prices charged are so similar they raise a lot of questions.”
The main opposition party, Fine Gael, said that while some higher prices could be attributed to the higher cost of doing business in Dublin, some of the margins were excessive. Deputy leader Richard Bruton, an economist, argued that with a million consumers, plus a concentration of the main supermarket groups, Dublin should benefit from low prices.
“Instead, we find that only some staple foods, like bread and milk, are cheaper in Dublin than elsewhere. That begs the question of whether stores are enticing customers with low prices on these basics, while hiking up margins on the rest of their shopping.”
However, retailers hit back at the criticisms, with RGDATA, the grocers’ organisation, claiming members’ operating costs have risen by 116% since 1997. Prices were higher in Dublin, said a spokesperson, because the cost of staff, insurance, rent, security, heating and lighting were all “significantly higher” than for retailers outside the capital.