The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has begun a study into the Personal Contract Plan - or PCP - car finance market.

PCP is a form of hire purchase that's become increasingly popular in the car finance market, with many dealerships offering it as their primary finance product.

However the consumer body is concerned that some may not be fully aware of the terms and conditions involved when signing up to such a deal.

"We do know that it's a good deal for garages, what we want to find out with this study 'is it a good deal for consumers'," said Fergal O'Leary, who's a member of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission. "It is becoming increasingly popular, if you look at the marketing it's probably the only way that new cars are being financed and when you get into the amount of money that's involved here - €30,000, €40,000, €50,000 - there is a lot of exposure for consumers in this market."

Mr O'Leary said that the CCPC's study will primarily look at how clear the contracts involved are to consumers - and whether they have a good grasp of the deal they are signing up to. The study will also examine the contracts involved to ensure there are no unfair practices being used by finance firms.

"They are complex products and I think what we need to find out is do consumers understand fully what they're signing up to when they agree to buy one of these products?," he said. "And then afterwards, have consumers out there have any problems - and that kind of evidence base will allow us to look into this market and see if further regulation or consumer protection measures are required."

The CCPC already has received a handful of complaints, according to Mr O'Leary, and he said one concern from there was how fundamental some of their questions have been.

"Naturally these are marketed on a new car at a very low price - well ultimately as a consumer you will pay for that car, it's just a case of how and when and what happens to you at the end of the agreement that really matters," he said.

The CCPC said the findings of the study will determine how suitable current consumer protections are for dealing with this type of agreement.

"I think the important thing for us is that we have a concern that maybe consumers don't understand well enough how these products work for them - anything further is dependent on getting a really good evidence base on what is happening in the market, what is happening in the market and where are the risks," he said. "There are risks for consumers but there are also risks for businesses here as well."

Aside from PCP deals the CCPC is also conducting an investigation into the motor insurance market - a probe that has been underway since December 2016. Mr O'Leary said that that was ongoing - and warned that investigations of this nature take some time to complete.

"These things take time, they involve hundreds of thousands, or maybe millions of documents that need to be looked at," he said. "But what I would say is that we don't undertake these types of investigations lightly, we do have concerns as to what's happening in this market, but we need to make sure - and we will do this - that we have the evidence to take any further steps."