The Food and Drinks Federation, part of the influential Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation (IBEC), led the criticism. Assistant secretary Rosemary Garth dismissed Foley’s claim of a contradiction between the requirement that she enforce the ban while spending E500,000 on a price awareness campaign. “There is
no incompatibility between the ban and lower food prices,” insisted Garth.
“Spain, Greece and Portugal - the cheapest countries for groceries in the EU - all have bans on below-cost selling.” She described the baby food discounts by Tesco and Dunnes, which have led to them being prosecuted for allegedly breaching the order, as “a stunt, a one-day wonder”.
Ailish Forde, director general of RGDATA, the grocers’ lobby group, expressed surprise at Foley’s statement, pointing out that the statutory role of her office could only be changed by parliament.
“The office is charged with protecting the consumer,” she said, “and the Groceries Order is clearly a matter of consumer protection, with many countries recognising below-cost selling is not in the public interest.”
Suppliers were already under “intense pressure,” according to one company spokesman, as the major chains squeezed them in a bid to match discounters Aldi and Lidl on prices.