Tesco calls Ireland ‘Treasure Island’, TD claims

Supermarket chains should freeze prices or have move imposed, Dáil told

The Government should follow other EU member states and hold talks with major supermarket chains to have them introduce a two-year price freeze on basic food items, the Dáil has heard.

Independent TD John Halligan said that if the supermarkets, who were making "astronomical profits" did not freeze prices, the Government could then impose such a move.

He said there should “at the very least” be a price freeze on basic items including bread, milk, butter and baby food.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore told him "the route the Government is taking on this issue is the legislative route". He said in the programme for government the coalition had made a commitment to deal with anti-competitive practices in the grocery sector and to introduce legislation.


Protecting consumers

“We are going to deliver on that,” he said, in the Consumer and Competition Bill, which would protect consumers against overpricing and profiteering.

Supermarket chains were aware of the Government’s intention, he added. “The message should be very clear to them in relation to their pricing policy. I would expect that they would act accordingly.”

Mr Halligan said supermarket giant Tesco was "rumoured to dub this country 'Treasure Island' ", and he criticised the company's failure to release information on its profits in Ireland.

Referring to a comparative 2011 and 2013 survey done by the Consumer Association of Ireland on 19 branded goods, he said they had increased in price in that time by 12.6 per cent for the basket surveyed, more than during the boom, even though the inflation rate was only 1.7 per cent.

Making contribution

Insisting there was a “malnutrition crisis” in Ireland because of food poverty, Mr Halligan said everyone had been asked to make a contribution to economic recovery.

"We should be asking them to make their contribution to help out this economy," he said of chains including Tesco, Aldi and Lidl.

He added: “If they don’t do it we have the ability as legislators to bring in a price freeze on essential items.”

Mr Gilmore said the CSO consumer price index surveyed 50,000 items in 632 categories, and its figures showed a drop of 6.3 per cent since 2008 in food and non-alcoholic drinks. But most recent figures showed a 1.6 per cent increase for the year ending March 2013.

He said “we can hold discussions”, but that the supermarket chains understood the Government’s intention and he expected them to act on it.