Thursday, 22 March 1990
Dáil Éireann Debate
14. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce if he is satisfied that Irish motor car importers can purchase their stocks from EC based manufacturers at a price equal to or in excess of the prices being charged, excluding VAT or excise duty, to dealers in the country of manufacture; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Mr. O'Malley: I have no function in the negotiation of the prices payable by Irish car importers to EC car manufacturers. Consequently, I do not have particulars of the prices at which Irish motor car importers can purchase their stocks from EC based manufacturers nor do I have details of the prices charged by such manufacturers to dealers in the country of manufacture.
Article 85 (1) of the Treaty of Rome prohibits agreements, decisions or concerted practices between undertakings or associations of undertakings which may affect trade between member states and which has as their object or effect the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition within the common market. In particular those agreements etc. which apply dissimilar conditions to equivalent transactions with other trading parties, thereby placing them at a competitive disadvantage, are specifically prohibited. If Irish car importers consider that they are being treated less favourably than dealers in the country of manufacture it is open to them to bring the situation to the attention of the EC Commission.
Mr. Durkan: As the Minister will readily recognise, it is not the importer who carries the cost of an uncompetive or restrictive practice but the consumer. In view of this would he be prepared to initiate a survey to be carried out by officials of his Department into the prices being charged by European car manufacturers to the various markets, such as the British, German and Irish markets, to ascertain if in fact a special price is being charged taking into account the size of the market in a particular country,  as this would seem to be completely at variance with European competition law?
Mr. O'Malley: I have no reason to believe that the Irish market is charged the highest price or anything like it. There is a suggestion in a survey which was carried out privately that the Irish pre-tax prices are on average higher than those in Denmark, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. If this survey is correct, and I do not know whether it is, it would seem to indicate that we are roughly about the middle of the league in this respect.
Mr. Durkan: Surely, with 1992 looming fast, now is a good time for the Minister to initiate a survey, through the aegis of his Department. Following that he will be in a position to tell the House what the position is. Will the Minister agree to initiate such a survey in order to protect the interests of Irish consumers who in this case happen to be those who purchase motor cars?
Mr. O'Malley: If the importers feel they are being charged more for identical models than is the case in other markets it is open to them to complain to the commission. So far as I am aware importers have not found it necessary to make such a complaint. If the prices they were being charged were seriously out of line I have no doubt that they would make such a complaint.
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