Bill to tackle price gouging published by Labour
The Labour Party is set to introduce a bill to give the Competition & Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) new powers to examine the profits and price setting policies of the country’s giant retailers and take enforcement action where prices are found to be excessive.
The Labour Party spokesperson on Enterprise, Ged Nash TD said:
“I have been campaigning for some time now on possible price gouging in the food and grocery sector and one thing that has become very clear to me, is that we have a serious lack of transparency when it comes to examining the profits and price-setting practices of giant retailers.
“In the wake of the farcical outcome of last week’s Retail Forum, the Enterprise Minister sought to take control of the narrative, briefing the media that he would take steps that would lead to big supermarket players publishing their profits and being compelled to make the prices they charge their customers clearer.
“Today, Labour will publish a Bill that will do exactly that. The Consumer and Consumer Protection (Excessive Pricing) Act 2023 would amend the 2014 Consumer Protection Act and address this fundamental problem within while arming a currently powerless regulator with real enforcement powers to bring these giant retailers to heel and ensure fair pricing at the checkout.
“Our bill would allow the CCPC to undertake a deep study and analysis of the costs they incur, the profits taken and the prices set by large retailers.
“The CCPC would be allowed to collect any data they need to complete that analysis and publish the results, bringing a transparency to this market that has been sorely missing for too long.
“While the CCPC will be required to take into account commercial sensitivities in publishing these studies, its prime consideration should be the welfare of the consumer.
“If dominant and secretive retailers are not price gouging, then they have nothing to fear from this bill, but if they are, the new legislation will empower the CCPC to bring them to book. Failure to cooperate with a CCPC analysis or providing false information will carry a sanction from fines, up to a five-year prison sentence.
“The Bill seeks to address a problem where giant retailers may abuse a dominant market position to set either unfair purchase prices for their small suppliers, or unfair selling prices to consumers. In addressing that issue, the bill seeks to protect both consumers and the producers supplying the supermarket multiples.
“Instead of paying lip service to the issue as the government did last week at the Retail Forum, this new Bill would go further than begging and pleading with the supermarkets to play fair, it would compel them to do so, for once and for all.
“What we need now is not more empty words, but practical action by the government to bring grocery prices down and give working families struggling with the cost of living, a break. This legislation should be welcomed by government as a constructive proposal to make the market fairer.
“I believe this bill would arm the CCPC with many of the tools it needs to finally deliver a fair deal for consumers at the supermarket checkout.”
COMPETITION AND CONSUMER PROTECTION
(EXCESSIVE PRICING) BILL 2023
- Amendment of Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014
- Short title and collective citation and construction
Act Referred to
Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014 (No. 29)
COMPETITION AND CONSUMER PROTECTION
(EXCESSIVE PRICING) BILL 2023
An Act to enable the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission better to perform its functions in relation to protecting consumers from abuse by undertakings of a dominant position by imposing unfair purchase prices, for that purpose to amend the Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014, and to provide for related matters.
Be it enacted by the Oireachtas as follows:
Amendment of Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014
- The Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014 is amended by the insertion of the following after section 11:
“Supplementary powers of Commission: excessive pricing
11A. (1) In order to enable the Commission better to perform its functions in relation to enforcing the prohibition on abuse by undertakings of a dominant position by directly or indirectly imposing unfair purchase prices on consumers, the Commission may—
(a) undertake studies, analyses and surveys with respect trade in any goods or services in the State or in any part of the State by undertakings having a dominant position in the sector concerned,
(b) collect and compile information for that purpose, and
(c) publish the results of any such studies, analyses or surveys.
(2) A study, analysis or survey under subsection (1) may in particular include a study, analysis or survey of the cost to an undertaking of supplying the goods or services concerned to consumers and the amount of the undertaking’s profit margin.
(3) In the case of an undertaking that trades in goods or services both in the State and outside the State, the reference in subsection (2) to profit margin means the profit margin attributable to the activities of the undertaking in the State.
(4) In undertaking a study, analysis or survey under subsection (1), the Commission—
(a) may, by notice in writing, require any person who, in the opinion of the Commission has information, or has control of a record or other thing, that is relevant to the study, analysis or survey to provide the information, record or thing to the Commission, and
(b) may, by the same or another notice in writing, require the person to attend before a member or member of the staff of the Commission for that purpose.
(5) In deciding whether and to what extent commercially sensitive information should be included in a study, analysis or survey published under subsection (1), the Commission shall have due regard for commercial confidentiality, but the interests and welfare of consumers shall be its paramount consideration.
(6) A person who—
(a) intentionally prevents the Commission from performing a function conferred by subsection (1),
(b) intentionally obstructs or hinders the Commission in the performing of such a function,
(c) without reasonable excuse, fails to comply with a requirement made to the person in accordance with subsection (4), or
(d) in purporting to comply with a requirement made under subsection (4) to provide information, provides the Commission with information that the person knows, or ought reasonably to know, is false or misleading in a material respect,
is guilty of an offence and is liable—
(i) on summary conviction, to a class A fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or both, or
(ii) on conviction on indictment, to a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or both.
(5) Summary proceedings for an offence under this section may be brought and prosecuted by the Commission.”.
Short title and collective citation and construction
- (1) This Act may be cited as the Consumer and Consumer Protection (Excessive Pricing) Act 2023.
(2) This Act and the Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014 may be cited together as the Competition and Consumer Protection Acts 2014 and 2023 and shall be construed together as one Act.