The prosecution was initiated by consumer affairs director Carmel Foley under the controversial groceries order, which bans below-cost selling by retailers. But the High Court ruled last week that nappies could not be considered “grocery goods” and were therefore outside the scope of the order.
Afterwards Foley conceded that the judgment might also apply to “other personal items” that had previously been regarded as covered by the below-cost ban. She had taken action against Dunnes, she said, because of a complaint from a competitor that the chain was advertising a 40% price reduction on nappies as part of a special one-day promotion.
Foley added: “Above all, this case illustrates how absurd it is for my office to have to deal with an issue like this, which is effectively a dispute between retail rivals. Because of the complaint about below-cost selling, we were required to investigate it and take action.”
Last year Ms Foley’s office successfully prosecuted both Tesco and Dunnes for selling below-cost baby food, with the companies fined £3,000 each.
Meanwhile, the Chambers of Commerce of Ireland has come out against a continuation of the groceries order, currently under review. In a submission to the Department of Trade and Enterprise, the Chambers claims the order only bans selling below the price on the invoice, while preventing multiples passing on to customers the off-invoice discounts they receive from suppliers.
Its chief executive, John Dunne, says: “The order should be replaced with one that requires invoices to reflect the actual cost of goods supplied.”