The abolition of the Groceries Order would be very good news for consumers, it was claimed today.
The order, which bans retailers from passing on supplier discounts to customers, is expected to be abolished at today’s Cabinet meeting.
The National Consumer Agency said it would help to bring down food prices, which are currently the highest in the European Union.
Chairwoman Anne Fitzgerald said: “If the Cabinet decides to abolish the Groceries Order, it will be a very good news day for consumers in Ireland. It will certainly mean far more price competition, which we’ve been lacking up to now, and it will benefit in particular the poorest among us who spend most of their income on food.”
The Groceries Order, which was introduced in 1987, came under the spotlight recently following Eddie Hobbs’ Rip Off Republic series on RTE.
Mr Hobbs claimed that the abolition of the order would save consumers up to €1,000 a year on shopping, while the Competition Authority has put the saving at nearly €500 a year.
Ms Fitzgerald said that while it was difficult to provide an accurate figure, she was confident there would be savings for consumers.
“We’re talking about 75% of everything we will buy when we walk into a large supermarket or small convenience store. It covers everything barring fresh food and vegetables, and nappies.”
Groups representing small retailers such as RGDATA have argued in favour of the Groceries Order, on the ground that its abolition would drive them out of business.
The Cabinet is expected to introduce safeguards, which include additional powers for the Competition Authority to enforce the ban on “hello money”. This illegal practice involves supermarkets charging suppliers a fee in return for stocking their products.
Ms Fitzgerald said she was confident that small retailers would be able to survive, given the increasing convenience needs of consumers.
“We are very fortunate in Ireland that we have a very large convenience sector.
“It has been embedded into the Irish economy over the last 20 years and since we have become more time-poor, we need it more and more and we in the Consumer Agency firmly believe it will go from strength to strength,” she said.