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Thursday, 20 June, 2002, 08:29 GMT 09:29 UK
Euro reveals high Irish prices
Glasses of Guinness
Ireland fails the Guinness test by a big margin

Why should sun cream cost almost twice as much in Dublin as it does in St. Tropez?

And Guinness! A 500ml can costs two euros and nine cents in Ireland, and a mere one euro 32 cents in St Tropez!

Now that's hard to swallow.

Retail Intelligence, an online market research magazine, has just published a report which has some eye-opening comparisons for Irish consumers.

Profiteering

The research is based on 40 identical items piled into two shopping trolleys - one in St. Tropez, one in Dublin.

While a few items bought in Ireland were cheaper, the vast majority of the French products cost less, resulting in a total which was almost 25% lower in France compared to Ireland.

Sunbathers on the beach at St Tropez
Climatic differences may cause the sun-cream gap
Irish consumer organisations say they are not surprised by the results.

"Because of the introduction of the euro, many of us have become very price-conscious, very price-aware," points out Dermott Jewell, chief executive of the Consumers' Association of Ireland.

"Now it's easy to make comparisons, it's clear that there is some profiteering going on, it's all coming home to roost and consumers are getting very annoyed."

But Irish supermarkets insist that they are not to blame for the higher prices.

Sun-cream war

"The price differences illustrated in the survey are not particularly unusual," says Fergal Quinn, executive chairman of the Superquinn supermarket chain.

"There are such big gaps in duty on alcohol between Ireland and France. Here we pay two euros five cents on a bottle of sparkling wine, in France they pay only six cents."

Dejected fan after Irish team's exit
The World Cup has pinched some Irish pockets
However Fergal Quinn admits that some items gave him cause for concern over their price difference.

"Take the sun cream for example [13 euros 19 cents in Ireland, seven euros two cents in France]. While there may be a price war on sun cream in the south of France, that's not going to happen here, given the weather we've been having recently, and the fact that we have a law against selling below-cost."

It certainly has been a grey overcast summer so far here, and now that Ireland's turn at the World Cup is over, Irish consumers seem to be more aware then ever of the pinch in their pockets.

Consumer concern

"My shopping bill is definitely creeping up, I'm spending more on things like bread and eggs," says Mary as she comes out of Dublin supermarket, loaded down with two shopping baskets.


It's one bitter pill after another

Dermott Jewell, Consumers' Association
Frank is just finishing his weekly family shop. "VAT on alcohol is very very high here, I think I'll just have to move to St. Tropez," he laughs.

And the statutory body, the Director of Consumer Affairs, is also concerned.

Director Carmel Foley has called on supermarkets and manufacturers to explain why prices here are so high and to explain where their margins are coming from.

This survey is being welcomed, for exposing the disparity in prices, despite the fact that French wages are higher than Irish wages.

"It's one bitter pill after another," says the Consumers' Associations' Dermott Jewell.

"This research is very significant. We've let consumer issues slide, allowed the retailers and suppliers to get the market to a level that's comfortable for them and very uncomfortable for the consumer.

"And except for the introduction of the euro, we wouldn't be aware of these rises."

In the meantime, consumers and retailers are looking forward to more revelations at the end of the month, when a report by the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment into prices and the euro changeover will be published.

See also:

20 Jun 02 | Europe
31 May 02 | Business
31 May 02 | Business
03 Jan 02 | Business
28 Aug 01 | Business
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