Fianna Fáil Enterprise spokesperson Dara Calleary has accused Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton of being out of touch with the nature of the relationship between retailers and suppliers, calling on him to "put his money where his mouth is" and reintroduce a ban on below-cost selling.
During a Dáil debate on the Competition and Consumer Protection Bill last week, Calleary tabled an amendment proposing banning below-cost selling of goods, and accused the Minister of "protecting the big beast" when it came to retailer pricing strategies.
"On "Planet Richard" all is lovely and everybody gets on well together. It is all fine, with suppliers being nice to producers," Calleary said.
"In the real world, however, the supplier is a multinational or a major Irish company that goes to the producers - many of whom are in the Minister's own constituency - and tells them, 'This is what we want and this is the price you are getting. In addition to that price, we want more money for shelf space. We want you to supply us and you might have to come in and lay out the stock. We basically want you lock, stock and barrel, and give us your children while you're at it'.
Independent TD Peter Matthews added that the Minister echoed his statement, saying that the Minister is "living in a land of unreality if he thinks the small producer of vegetables or fresh produce has any sort of power, other than to the extent that the most efficient and effective producing methods have been employed, in delivering to the supermarkets. It is so simple that it is staggering if he cannot grasp that fact or see the opportunity that now arises to level the playing pitch."
In response, Minister Bruton remarked that what the Deputies were proposing was "bizarre economics. We cannot hand over the authority to fix the price at which goods are sold to any such company. […] The Deputies propose to make it the law of the land that every seller to a retail chain can set its own price, and the retailer cannot do anything about it. That is not competition or a marketplace."
The amendment was defeated by 84 votes to 38.