Thursday 18 December 2014

Paying through the nose for a pint and a puff, we're still most expensive in whole EU

Aideen Sheahan

Published 20/06/2014 | 02:30

IRELAND is still one of the dearest countries in the European Union and the most expensive to smoke and drink.

New figures from Eurostat show we have the fifth highest consumer prices in the EU, and when it comes to alcohol and tobacco we're a massive 78pc more expensive than average.

Overall Irish consumer prices in 2013 were 18pc above the EU norm, behind most-expensive Denmark where prices were 40pc above average, with Sweden, Luxembourg and Finland also dearer than us.

Norway and Switzerland – both outside the EU – are also more expensive with prices around 55pc above average, and alcohol and cigarettes costing nearly three times more in Norway than elsewhere.

Despite being a massive food producer and exporter, Irish food and beverage prices are still 17pc above the EU norm.

Keeping in touch and getting around are also more expensive with communications and transport services each 19pc above average.

The cost of restaurants and hotels is also very high here at 28pc above average, whereas in popular tourist destinations Spain and Greece they're well below average.

For cars and bicycles we're 11pc more expensive than the EU average, while for consumer electronics we're 5pc dearer.

Meanwhile for household energy Irish prices are 8pc above the EU norm.

However kitting out your home is pretty good value in Ireland with prices for furniture 15pc below average while household appliances are 6pc cheaper.

And the price gap between us and our nearest neighbour Britain has narrowed as the cost of living has risen much faster there in recent years.

That means UK prices are now 14pc above average, and though food remains substantially cheaper there, alcohol and cigarette prices are not far behind Ireland.

The Consumers Association of Ireland (CAI) said that high prices here often reflected the high contribution the public made in taxes on many goods.

However, CAI spokesman Dermott Jewell said that it is worrying that restaurant and hotel prices were so high despite the favourable VAT rates they enjoyed.

"A few green shoots do not make a forest and it is worrying if prices are creeping up again at this stage," he said.

IBEC Retail Ireland director Stephen Lynam said higher business costs along with taxes and excise duties were the reason Irish prices remained so high.

"These Eurostat figures would tally with our own finding that business costs in Ireland are around 15-20pc higher than the rest of Europe, down to higher labour costs, local authority rates, electricity prices etc," he said.

While some goods such as furniture and household appliances were cheaper this was down to the fact that the market for these had been so depressed that many retailers had slashed prices so they had no margin at all "simply to keep their doors open".

Irish prices are comparatively lower than they were at the end of the boom when they soared to almost 30pc above average.

But after a steep fall they've been fairly stagnant in the last three years.

Bulgaria is the cheapest country in the EU with prices 52pc below average, although Macedonia, also in eastern Europe, is even cheaper.

Irish Independent

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