Marks & Spencer, Laura Ashley and Tesco have been accused of ripping off customers in the Republic of Ireland by failing to pass on a 20% fall in sterling against the euro.
In parliament in Dublin last week, Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore accused the chains of “profiteering at the expense of the Irish consumer”. He alleged the chains were charging prices up to 50% higher than in their UK stores, despite the currency differential.
Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen said the government had written to the retailers seeking an explanation. He warned that action would be taken “if the replies are not what we expect to hear”.
Separately, the National Consumer Agency urged Irish shoppers to boycott “British retailers that are charging significantly higher prices in Ireland”.
Trade body Retail Ireland defended the rises, arguing that Ireland is an expensive place to do business, with the cost of minimum wage, insurance, distribution and waste collection all higher than in the UK.
M&S said there were many factors specific to the Irish market including higher rents and operational costs, which meant it was misleading to compare Irish and UK prices.
But the Irish Consumers’ Association said that even if costs are 10% higher, it did not justify current prices. It has also called for “profiteering” retailers to be named and shamed in a national advertising campaign.