Business Irish

Friday 17 November 2017

Competition commission in new probe on grocery pricing

Agency tasked with upholding competition law is beefing up staff by almost a third

A formal investigation into pricing in the groceries sector has been launched by the CCPC
A formal investigation into pricing in the groceries sector has been launched by the CCPC
Gavin McLoughlin

Gavin McLoughlin

A formal investigation into pricing in the groceries sector has been launched by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), the Sunday Independent can reveal.

The news emerges as the Commission prepares to beef up its staff by almost a third - including hiring new investigators. It has also designated government procurement as an "area of interest".

Grocers in this country are at war over prices. Kantar Worldpanel director David Berry said that the market is "intensely competitive". Shoppers are benefiting from price cuts but concerns have been raised about prices paid to suppliers.

"You've got the three big players, each of whom has just over 20pc share of the marketplace, and then you have Aldi and Lidl below them with almost 10pc each," Mr Berry told the Sunday Independent.

"Elsewhere, you wouldn't have that same level of competition and what that means is when one retailer has a certain amount of activity in the market then the other ones have to respond.

"It is very, very fierce...price inflation remains very subdued, so there are limited price increases and if you look within the store there would be a number of areas where prices are actually reducing."

The CCPC would not disclose any more details of the grocery matters, saying the amount of information it could provide was limited for fear of prejudicing the investigation.

It would not reveal which retailer or retailers are being investigated and there is no indication that any of the major supermarkets have done anything wrong.

It is also formally investigating the bagged cement industry and screening a number of complaints about the beverage industry.

This newspaper previously reported that the Commission had received a number of complaints with regard to the drinks trade, with one accusing Heineken of offering publicans cash and free kegs as an incentive to delist rival products.

Heineken said it could not comment on matters before the CCPC.

Earlier this year, the offices of cement-maker CRH were raided as part of the cement probe.

The CCPC is hiring another 25 people "primarily to resource new responsibilities, to bring in additional skills/expertise and to fill vacancies where staff members have left".

It currently employs 86 people and says the new employees will "further enrich the work of each function of the Commission."

The new vacancies cover all areas of the body's work and will be filled in the coming months.

Other areas of interest for the CCPC are on-going work to seek compliance with the Consumer Rights Directive which was designed to give consumers the same rights across the member states of the European Union.

Sunday Indo Business

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