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Home > Seanad Éireann debate. Competition and Consumer Protection Bill 2014: Second stage (continued).

[Oireachtas] Seanad Éireann debate. Competition and Consumer Protection Bill 2014: Second stage (continued). (08 Jul 2014)

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[Senator Michael Mullins] The Bill will regulate many sectors and bring fairness, which is what consumers want. We all want consumers to get the best possible deal. The Bill attempts to achieve a balance whereby the livelihood of primary producers is also taken into account. We are all aware of some practices within the multiples that are totally unfair. We saw vegetables sold recently at between 6 cent and 8 cent a kilo. No doubt the producers were forced to sell their product to the supermarket at unsustainable prices at the risk of losing their contracts.

  One issue the new legislation does not address but which I hope the Government will sort out and bring forward measures to address – Senator Henry also referred to it - is the practice of large supermarkets using alcohol as a device to attract customers by selling alcohol below cost or very cheaply. They recoup the losses by increasing the price of basic foodstuffs. We are all very much aware of the serious issues we have in this country with alcohol. We must examine the role of the large multiples in that regard and the lack of controls that are currently in place.

  A recent report from the Health Research Board indicated that 150,000 people in this country are dependent drinkers and that 1.3 million are harmful drinkers, according to World Health Organization standards. A total of 75% of all alcohol consumed is part of a binge drinking session with 21% of binge drinkers drinking at least once a week. We all know the availability of cheap alcohol is a significant contributor to the abuse of alcohol, which is devastating young lives and families and costing the health service close to €1.2 billion per annum. The sale of cheap alcohol is also impacting on other businesses. We all know the difficulties experienced by rural pubs and small grocery stores and small supermarkets. A friend recently told me he decided not to renew his wine licence because he could buy it in a multiple in a neighbouring town at a price less than he could buy it from his supplier. There was no logic to the situation from his point of view.

  In welcoming the legislation I also welcome the fact that some issues that are not included are being considered by the Government. I refer to the provision of allowing for collective bargaining by professional bodies and groups of self-employed persons. That is a particularly significant development. I also welcome the provision relating to payment for goods within 30 days. The Bill clearly sets out that the regulations may specify the manner and timeframe in which payment for grocery goods supplied to relevant grocery goods undertakings are to be made. To allow for more flexibility, the timeframe for payment should be considered in the context of regulations rather than primary legislation.

  I compliment the Minister on bringing forward the legislation. I hope what we will see as a result is greater but fairer competition within all sectors of business in this country and that the consumer will have greater protection as a result of the passing of the legislation. I am pleased to support the Bill.

[For the full debate, click on the link above]

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