Dáil Éireann - Volume 521 - 13 June, 2000

Written Answers. - Competition Authority Investigations.

58. Mr. Rabbitte asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the current position regarding the inquiry being undertaken by the Competition Authority into alleged price fixing in the drinks industry; if the report has been completed; if so, if it has been referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions; the additional steps being taken to protect consumers, having regard to recent newspaper reports highlighting exceptional high mark-up levels on drinks; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16518/00]

[165] Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Ms Harney): The Competition Authority has informed me that it has conducted a number of investigations in the past three years into the retail and wholesale drinks markets. As a result of its investigations, court proceedings have been instituted by the authority alleging contraventions of the Competition Acts. In addition, the authority has referred files to the Director of Public Prosecutions in respect of its investigations which have covered both alcoholic beverages and soft drinks.

Apart from these enforcement actions, the authority has also, on its own initiative, undertaken an independent study and analysis of the liquor licensing laws and other barriers to entry and their impact on competition and prices in the retail drinks market. The authority published its interim report in September 1998 and expects to complete its study when the legal proceedings referred to above have been concluded.

Last August, my colleague, Minister of State, Deputy Tom Kitt signed the Retail Price (Beverages in Licensed Premises) Display Order, 1999, which obliges publicans to display a price list immediately outside or immediately inside each entrance to their premises. The Director of Consumer Affairs is responsible for enforcing the order and is currently undertaking a campaign to ensure compliance with its terms.