Competition in grocery sector should take account of social and rural issues

Social responsibility, environmental considerations and community and rural cohesion as well as economic and accounting principles should be used to determine the appropriate level of competition in the retail grocery sector, the Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment heard last week.

Member of the Committee, Dara Calleary TD, said: “While it is important that measures are put in place to ensure that consumers have a wide variety of choice in the grocery retailing market in order to get value for money, we have to be careful of concentrating solely on some narrow theory of competition for its own sake that could lead to the demise of small town centres and rural communities.

“Some areas of the UK have already developed into ghost towns as town centre shops and service outlets have closed because of competition from out of town superstores, much to the detriment of those communities and adding to social and environmental problems. We should be mindful of following a similar path.”

Deputy Calleary made his comments as the Chairman of the Competition Authority, William Prasifka, appeared before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment to answer questions on competition in the grocery market.

The Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment had invited the Competition Authority to address it on its three reports published under “The Grocery Monitor” heading as the first step in the process of holding hearings to identify why Irish shoppers are paying higher prices than other European shoppers and the entry barriers for companies such as Aldi and Sainsbury’s to establish outlets in Ireland, south of the border.

“We appreciate Mr Prasifka and his colleagues from the Competition Authority appearing before the Committee as it afforded us the opportunity to query the authority on the structure and operation of the grocery retailing sector in Ireland and what measures are being put in place to ensure consumers get value for money,” concluded Dep Calleary.

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