FG pledge to reform grocery controls

FINE GAEL last night promised to sweep away price controls in a move they claim could save consumers up to 10% on shopping and strike a blow against ‘rip-off Ireland’.

After months of in-fighting, enterprise spokesman Phil Hogan pledged to replace the controversial Groceries Order which bans below-cost selling, but also bring in safeguards to protect local shopkeepers.

Mr Hogan branded the current situation a “nonsense” and said it was time to start putting the consumer first.

Critics argue the order prevents retailers passing on to customers discounts they receive on bulk orders.

“We want the benefits of discounts passed on to the customers, so that shops can sell loss leaders, like baby food, for a limited time, but we do not want to allow predatory pricing that would allow major chains to force local shops out of business,” Mr Hogan said.

He calculated that if such discounts where reflected in over-the-counter prices, shoppers would benefit to the tune of 10% on many items.

The order’s impact on prices was brought to wide public attention by the consumer champion Eddie Hobbs in his show Rip-Off Republic.

Mr Hogan said the Competition Authority (CA) needed to be beefed up so it could police the retail sector more aggressively and stop major chains blowing small shops out of the market once the order was gone.

Tánaiste and Progressive Democrat leader Mary Harney yesterday called for the order to be abolished to benefit shoppers.

Earlier, CA chairman Dr John Fingleton told an Oireachtas Committee such a move would reduce prices permanently.

He said removal of the order could be expected to save the average household up to €481 per annum.

The FG policy shift was the centre piece of the opening day of the parliamentary party’s conference in Laois.

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