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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

The Labour Party has urged the consumer regulator to commence an inquiry into the prices charged by supermarkets


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Labour’s enterprise spokesman, Ged Nash, has called for the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) to investigate potential price gouging in supermarkets, citing increasing food costs and growing profits of multinational companies. Although price gouging is not formally defined in law, it is commonly understood as when traders charge an unreasonable or unethical price. This term is often used in situations of crisis or disaster, when a trader makes a large profit.

Nash stated that it was time for the CCPC to investigate the matter, so that workers can get more for their wages and authorities can examine how profit-taking is contributing to inflation. The CCPC, however, replied that they are not a price regulator, and do not have a role in monitoring the pricing of the economy. They went on to explain that businesses have the power to decide their own prices, and that the CCPC does not review or approve price increases.

Nash rejected the CCPC’s stance, instead suggesting a market analysis to determine how prices are changing in the market, noting that some prices have increased far beyond input costs. He criticized “greedflation” and argued that the European Central Bank’s interest rate increases are not doing enough to contain hyperprofits. Nash clarified that he did not believe supermarkets were involved in price fixing or price signalling, as there was no evidence to support that. However, he did urge the CCPC to remain vigilant of the potential for “tacit collusion” between competitors.

Nash suggested that the Consumer Protection Act 2007 could be used to impose a cap on prices of everyday essentials such as bread, milk, eggs, and pasta, which have seen a dramatic increase in cost recently. He said it was time for the government to intervene in this way and use the Consumer Protection Act to maintain reasonable prices.

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