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The Afternoon ShowRTÉ One, Weekdays, 4.00pm

Dual Price Tags and Trolley Watch

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

We will be checking the price of 20 Summer products in six of the leading supermarkets in Ireland to compare the costs. We will check the prices in Leinster and we will also compare the prices of the 20 products in the North.

Are we still living in rip-off republic? Every time you see a sterling price side by side with an inflated euro price do you feel you're being shafted? Can you pay the sterling equivalent instead? Tina explains how pricing works in this country and the instances where you can and can't argue the price on the tag.

With the sterling euro exchange rate so good for Irish Consumers going North for the last few months people want to know why they are paying way above the sterling price in the Republic.

Dual Price Tags:
We live in a free market economy and that means no price control. The idea is that good competition will keep prices keen and ensure we get best value. It also means that someone can sell a kettle for €500 if there is a fool out there willing to pay the price.

The truth is that although we're all part of one European market, there is a practice of market segmentation. This means that a retailer can choose a different price for a different region, based on what it is perceived that the market will bear. So for example in the grocery sector, many international brands set up an Irish office here for distribution and hike up the price according to what it believes the market will pay. We also have to take into account that if there are special brands produced just for the Irish market, they are dealing with a 4mill market as opposed to say 60mill in the UK, and so the economies of scale mean that prices will be higher. Grocery stores, for example have been complaining that distributors here charge them more than their UK counterparts. Hence one chain stores' decision last week to cut out the middle man and use their giant purchasing power to source in the UK and further afield at better prices.

It seems that during the Celtic Tiger years Irish consumers were willing to bear a lot. Now we're not willing, or cannot pay those prices any more, and so we're really noticing the differences.

Price Regulation
As I said we live in a free market economy. However, there is some price regulation such as with taxi fares or ESB prices for example. A pan-European example is the recent EU Regulation capping charges for texts and data downloads when roaming. This follows EU legislation capping the cost of taking and making calls when abroad in 2007.

The law on pricing

Irish legislation relating to prices says that they should be clearly displayed on or near the product and should be shown in the currency of the country. So, as long as the euro price is shown there could be ten other currencies on display also, but the euro one is the amount you are expected to pay. By all means go to a store and ask to pay the Sterling equivalent in euro, as it is bound to be cheaper but they don't have to give it to you for that amount.

Making the deal
When a shop displays a price, legally it's seen as an 'invitation'. Then you make an 'offer' to buy at that price, or indeed suggest another price, and the shop can accept or reject the offer. That's the way it works from a legal contractual point of view, so don't think any price has to be fixed and do try haggling at least.

Mistakes in pricing
What if you go to the till and the sales assistant says that there has been a mistake, and the trousers marked €15 are in fact €150? The law says that prices cannot be misleading but if this is a genuine mistake then the shop does not have to sell them to you at the marked price, but if it was deliberate then they do. It's a tricky one to prove, so always ask, and retailers with good customer service may well sell the item to you at the incorrect (lower) price anyway.

If you recognise something as a genuine mistake and try to take advantage that generally won't work. For example if a camera on a web site is priced at €2 when all others are priced €200. In such an instance the law would most likely say that it should have been obvious that a genuine mistake was made and it will be difficult for you to enforce the contract.

Please click below for the results of The Afternoon Show Trolley Watch