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Businesses warned they must act independently when setting or increasing prices

The CCPC has also reminded businesses they have additional responsibilities under consumer protection law when setting new or additional fees.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock/fizkes

BUSINESSES MUST ACT independently when setting their prices as they start to reopen, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has said.

The warning comes on the back of engagement between the CCPC and a number of trade associations after they made public statements about new potential charges and price increases, which their members may apply.

The CCPC has written to both the Irish Hairdressing Federation and the Hairdressing Council of Ireland after both publicly suggested its members might act unilaterally to increase prices or introduce additional fees.

The CCPC has also reminded businesses they have additional responsibilities under consumer protection law when setting new or additional fees or making changes to business practices.

In a statement issued today, the CCPC noted that businesses may be “reviewing their prices or considering whether or not to introduce additional charges to cover the cost of providing a service” which is in line with public health requirements to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“Businesses are free to do so, however the CCPC is reminding businesses that they must make such decisions independently and advise consumers of these costs before they make a purchase.”

The statement added that trade associations are free to advise their members on how to address the challenges they are facing. However, the practice of trade associations suggesting future prices, or coordinating ways of passing on costs to consumers, could “constitute an infringement of competition law”.

Challenges

Isolde Goggin, Chairperson of the CCPC, said the organisation is “acutely aware of the new challenges that businesses across the country are facing at this time”, but added that businesses “must be mindful that the rules set out by competition law remain unchanged”.

“If a business is introducing new prices or charges or making changes to business practices, they must be transparent and inform customers before they buy.”

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Goggin added that, as the economy starts to reopen, the CCPC is “closely monitoring the activities of businesses and similar representative organisations” and, if necessary, “will take appropriate action to deter or stop any potentially anti-competitive behaviour”.

In a statement, the Irish Hairdressers Federation said it is “a group of small businesses who sought to harness support from other trade associations in the hair and beauty sector in order to present a central mindset which was to return to work safely”.

A spokesperson said the federation “brought together other trade associations in the hair and beauty sector with the sole objective of developing strict guidelines to ensure the safety of their staff and clients, which remains our only priority”.

“While the Irish Hairdressers Federation has issued strict and extensive guidelines on reopening safely, it is not our role to make any recommendations on prices as this is a matter for each individual salon owner to decide.”

The spokesperson added that the federation has “engaged very constructively with the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission in the past few days” and looks forward to “further constructive dialogue”.

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Órla Ryan

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