The Competition Authority in the Irish Republic has been accused of foot-dragging in deciding whether allegations of price collusion among multiples in the Irish market warrant official investigation and possible prosecution. The results of four successive monthly surveys, which showed that on a basket of 36 branded goods, bought in 10 different areas of the country, the prices charged by Tesco, Dunnes, Superquinn and SuperValu were almost identical, were referred to the Authority by Irish Consumer Affairs director Carmel Foley at the end of December. The agency says that "the results are still being examined". The Irish Consumers' Association, which helped conduct the price surveys, says it is "very disappointed" at the Authority's lack of action. "We believe the results presented a prima facie case that there is a lack of real competition among the multiples," said association secretary Derek Jewell. "We had expected that by now the authority would have sought details from the multiples of their pricing structures, so as to establish just what is going on. "Consumers are entitled to an explanation." Competition Authority spokesman Kieran Quigley acknowledged that price collusion could be one explanation. "But there could also be another reason ­ that competition in the sector is so intense the multiples are watching each other very closely and matching each other's prices," he said. Price surveys alone didn't offer definitive evidence, he claimed, and the Authority hadn't reached a decision. If and when it did, there would be no official announcement. "If we feel court proceedings are justified, we initiate proceedings," he added. Meanwhile, the Consumers' Association intends to maintain the pressure with another market survey later in the year, this time pricing a basket of groceries in euros, the currency which will be in circulation in the Republic from next January. {{NEWS }}