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Compare Prices: Ireland, Europe, and US, International

The Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) Mary Harney has had responsibility for competition in the economy for the 7 years to September 2004. It has been a period of significant economic growth but progress towards deregulation has been glacial. Ireland along with Finland are the most expensive countries in the European Union and the general consumer perception of profiteering and lack of price transparency is well justified. Ms. Harney encourages consumers to shop around and her response to consumer issues has been timid.

We at Finfacts have proposed that price information for popular consumer items should be available on the web (see Quangos...article below). The planned online drugs price comparison service which will be launched by the US government healthcare service Medicare, is an example of what could be done here.

Medicare patients and other consumers will be able to compare the prices of most prescription drugs, with listing of various dosages of specific drugs at retail pharmacies in or near a particular ZIP code. If a brand-name drug has generic equivalents, the prices of the generics will be displayed as well. The site will also show prices for competing brand-name drugs used to treat the same condition. For example a person shopping for Lipitor could see the prices for other cholesterol-lowering agents like Zocor and Crestor.

"When markets become transparent, consumers see lower prices almost immediately," a spokesperson for the company which has developed the software for the site, told the New York Times.

We agree and whether it may be trying to compare the price of a branded drug prescribed where there are alternatives or conveniently comparing the prices of so many other products, shopping around is not a remedy for the rip-off culture in Ireland.

The impact of Ryanair on aviation competition, the Bank of Scotland on the Irish mortgage market; German retail groups Lidl and Aldi on Irish supermarket competition, is self-evident. Deregulation in the services sector and the economy generally coupled with much greater transparency in consumer pricing are achievable goals if there is the will to make them political priorities.

The following is from the Irish Central Bank's Quarterly Bulletin:

As previous Bulletins have reported, Ireland’s competitiveness has worsened significantly over the past two years.  The Bank’s Real Trade Weighted Competitiveness Index (RTWCI), which measures changes in competitiveness arising from differing rates of inflation and exchange rate fluctuations, shows that, since joining EMU in 1999, Ireland’s competitiveness has disimproved by about 15 per cent.   The relatively high inflation rates of the past few years have taken their toll and the recovery of the euro exchange rate in the past year has exposed a loss of underlying competitiveness which had been masked during the earlier period of exchange rate weakness.  The fact that Ireland’s absolute price level is now substantially above that of the euro area, the US and UK, our main trading partners, is of major concern.  Therefore, a key policy objective must be to restore competitiveness.


European Union Food, Drink and Tobacco Prices Survey 2004
EU/OECD Report on 450 Food, Drink and Tobacco Price Comparisons

June 2004: Ireland is the most expensive of the European Union's 25 states according to a survey, which has been published by the European Union's statistics office Eurostat.

Irish food, alcohol and tobacco prices are higher in Ireland than in any other country of the EU 25-44% above the average. Both Germany and Belgium are 4% above the average and Spain is 19% below the average.

The cost of fruit, vegetables, coffee, tea and soft drinks is 40% above the EU 25 average while the cost of the same combination of goods in Germany is just 1% above the average.

The 2003 survey of prices, including the 10 accession states, found a basket of food, beverages and cigarettes in Ireland costs about 2.6 times more than in Poland the lowest in the EU where prices for the same products are just 55% of the EU average.

In an interview on RTE Radio One's Morning Ireland programme, Dublin Tourism's Chief Executive Frank Magee in response to a question on Dublin's high prices said that people should 'stop knocking Dublin' because the city is very successful in attracting 'high value tourists.' Many of these are not tourists but business travellers.

Click for the Eating, Drinking, Smoking – Comparative Price Levels in EU25 & EFTA 2003 Report (in pdf format- Acrobat required)


BulletStatement on Prices and Costs -Sept 2004: The National Compet. Council
Ireland is the most expensive country in the Eurozone for food, non-alcoholic beverages (retail), tobacco and rentals for housing. We are the second most expensive for alcoholic beverages (off-licence) and for restaurants and pubs.

BulletDublin Consumer Prices and Outside Dublin 2005
73 goods and services price comparisons between Dublin and the rest of Ireland. Between Dublin and outside Dublin, 26 items had average prices that fell within a 3% range of each other. Average prices for 30 of the items were more than 3% higher in Dublin, while 17 items were more than 3% lower.

BulletGlobal Cost of Living Rankings 2005-Dublin in 13th place from 21st in 2003
Dublin's 13th place compares with Berlin in 42nd place and Madrid in 46th place.

BulletIrish Cost of Living Survey-Ireland heads for 1st place in eurozone rankings 

BulletFinancial Services Costs Survey-Irish Fin. Services Regulatory Authority 

BulletIreland-Health Insurance-VHI and Bupa Plan Rates on same-page format

BulletIrish Competitiveness Survey-Year 2005 Survey: National Compet Council

BulletDublin Pub Price Rip Offs 2005-prices in central and South Dublin pubs 

BulletEuropean Drink Prices-including Ireland from World Health Organization

BulletFinfacts Guinness Pint Index-price since 1969 relative to average earnings

BulletBroadband-Compare Irish prices / costs of broadband services 

BulletPetrol / Gas Prices-Irish and European prices 

BulletQuangos No Answer to Price Rip Off Culture

BulletIrish Consumer Organizations-including new Consumer Agency and report of Consumer Strategy Group.

 BulletConsumer Strategy Group Report- read our Submission

BulletGlobal Prime Office Rents 2005-Dublin in 8th place in Global 50 City Index

BulletTourist Destination Cost Surveys-Ireland in second place to Norway   

Ireland is second to Norway in a cost survey of 12 holiday destinations. However from our own experience, a tourist in Dublin is likely to pay less for a comparable lunch than in central Paris. A half litre of beer such as Carlsberg in a typical Paris brassiere can cost up to €9 ($11), compared with €4.70 in Dublin. On the food side, the pub lunch in Dublin is much better value than the typical lunch in Paris. An espresso coffee typically costs about 15% more in Paris.

A meal for 2-two courses plus coffee and a bottle of wine in a typical Dublin restaurant costs in the range €60-€80 (£40-£54; $72-$96 USD). A bottle of house wine costs about €20 but some restaurants provide low quality house wines- i.e. below the quality of an €8 bottle in a supermarket.


BulletEuropean Drink Prices-Beer, Wine & Spirits Prices from WHO 

BulletEuropean Price Comparisons-consumer and home electronics goods 

BulletSwitzerland's UBS Bank 'Price and Earnings' Report 2005

This 2005 update to the Prices and Earnings survey from UBS, compares purchasing power in 71 cities around the world, recalculated to reflect exchange rate, inflation and growth trends.

On a global comparison, people now have to work one or two minutes less on average than in 2003 to earn a Big Mac or a kilo of rice or bread. Real wage increases have boosted purchasing power across most of the new EU states in eastern Europe, so Lithuanians, Poles and Czechs now have to invest less working time to pay for a Big Mac. However, the accession of ten new member states from eastern Europe in spring 2004 cut the average purchasing power in the EU by around 20%. There is still a gulf in purchasing power between the old and new EU member states, mainly because of the big difference in wage levels. 

On a global comparison, net purchasing power is highest in Swiss cities and in Luxembourg, Los Angeles and Miami. Dublin is in 9th place.

BulletPrice Runner-4 country comparisons: UK, France, Denmark, Sweden 

BulletKelkoo-10 European country best price site 

BulletMy Simon- international site with over 2,000 different online shops

BulletBuyers' Path-advice on more than 1,000 business products

BulletZDNet Reviews-from the publishers of PCMagazine

BulletReviews-Mobile Phones, Notebooks etc

BulletJ.D. Power-the renowned benchmarkers covering many products

The Economist Magazine's Tall Latte Index

In January 2004, the Economist Magazine introduced its Starbucks Tall Latte Index to complement its long-running Big Mac Index.

The price of widely available products such as the Big Mac and Tall Latte, should not vary much in US dollar terms but at any time, local currencies are likely to be overvalued or undervalued.

Click for the Tall Latte Index-Starbucks will be available in Dublin soon!

Click for the Big Mac Index 2005

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