A decision to have photos for new credit card-style driving licences taken exclusively by a firm contracted by the Road Safety Authority will have a "devastating and unfair impact on hundreds of companies", it was claimed yesterday.
The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) expressed serious concerns at changes to the new driving licence, which, from September 2013, will result in photos being captured exclusively on-site at the locations of a company appointed by the Road Safety Authority ( RSA).
"The decision will have a devastating and unfair impact on hundreds of companies, including community pharmacists, who have invested considerable sums in photographic equipment," it said.
The IPU's Daragh Connolly said: "While the IPU is not against the introduction of credit card driving licences, we would have serious concerns about the impact of this new policy not only on members, the vast majority of whom supply photographic services, but also the serious inconvenience to the general public, who will no longer have the option of getting their photographs locally for their driving licences.
"Many pharmacists have invested considerable sums on photographic equipment, which will become obsolete when the new initiative is introduced.
"This will have a knock-on effect in terms of lost revenue, which potentially could impact on jobs," he warned.
The new licence will have several high level security features, such as microchips.
Credit Card Systems Ireland Ltd won the tender for the new cards and it is intended that there will be "more than one" office in each county where digital photographs will be taken, and they will have extended opening hours including Saturdays.
The RSA said a new 10-year licence using the credit card-style licence will cost €55 compared to €62 in the UK, or €100 in Australia.
The IPU said it was also concerned that the RSA had awarded a tender that allowed the successful recipient to exclude the services of a significant proportion of participants, including pharmacists, currently operating in the market.
"The awarding of this tender opens up serious competition issues, allowing only one provider of photographic services for driving licences, where previously there was a significant number of players.
"The IPU cannot see any justifiable reason why the introduction of a new credit card-style driving licence does not allow for scanned photographs or posted photographs, as has been the case to date," he said.
Mr Connolly called on the RSA to reconsider its approach and allow people the right to have their own photo taken in their local pharmacy if they so wished.
"This would ensure that consumer choice and a level playing field prevails in the market," he said.