Irish bans damaging interests of consumers' The 13 year old ban on below-cost selling in the Irish trade could be lifted within months. The Irish Competition Authority says the ban "damages consumer interests" and should be scrapped. Enterprise and Employment Minister Mary Harney said her primary concern would be "to ensure consumers get the best value for money". The Competition Authority has also called for the rescinding of the 32,000 sq ft cap recently imposed on the development of superstores and the removal of the ban on hello money', the payments some multiples demand from suppliers to stock products. An Irish parliamentary committee report earlier this year strongly endorsed superstore curbs. It recommended both hello money and below cost selling remain outlawed. But the Competition Authority accused the committee members of protecting the interests of smaller businesses "without taking into account the damage to consumer interests". It said the ban on superstores meant that existing retailers were able to charge higher prices. Lifting the ban on below-cost selling would mean sharp reductions in the price Irish consumers pay for milk, bread and other staples. But independent retailers and suppliers claim they would pay a high price in closures and job losses if left unprotected against the multiples' market muscle. Director-general of independent grocers' body RGDATA Michael Campbell claims the outcome will be predictable: "We'll be straight into a price war and the two multiples that control 50% of the market ­ Tesco and Dunnes ­ will most likely end up with 60-70% share in a couple of years." {{NEWS }}