Retailers in the Irish Republic could be imprisoned for a year under tough consumer protection legislation published last week by trade and enterprise minister Micheál Martin.

It will outlaw some 30 trading practices, including false claims about products and misleading adverts. It will also, said Martin, give Ireland's National Consumer Agency "teeth to protect consumers from unscrupulous traders".

The NCA will be able to issue fixed penalties for minor breaches of the law. But where retailers refuse to pay, or offences are serious, it can initiate court action, with maximum fines set at €3,000 and/or six months' imprisonment - or double for subsequent offences. It will also be able to publish lists of those convicted, a tactic already used against tax defaulters.

But Retail Ireland director Torlach Denihan said: "There is a huge difference between deliberately evading tax and making a mistake over prices. That should be taken into account."