IT’S well known that consumers fork out more in Ireland for a range of goods and services than in many other European countries but a new EU initiative has been designed to clarify exactly how much more we pay for a variety of goods and services.
The survey is comparing the cost of the same 500 goods in every member state in the EU, offering the first comprehensive assessment of its kind.
The study, called EU Consumer Watch, is being carried out by Eurostat and the results will be made available to consumers in clear, transparent data.
The programme has already started to compare prices in the retail financial services sector and to analyse European cross-border sales in tradable consumer goods including cameras, CDs and books.
Existing research shows that the price of digital cameras can vary by up to 30% between neighbouring countries – a considerable differential, given the price of some of these cameras.
Another key area of comparison relates to the average fees for the management of bank accounts. The survey so far has indicated that these can vary between zero and €80 across the EU.
Irish consumers can already compare domestic prices through a range of websites, including www.shoppingbill.com; www.valueireland.com; www.valueireland.com; ripoffrepublic.com; ripoffrepublic.com and Fine Gael’s site, www.ripoff.ie.
It’s also possible to compare mobile phone roaming charges across the European community by logging onto www.europa.eu.int.
However, the latest study will break new ground in comparing like with like in every EU member state, showing, for example, whether or not it is worthwhile to go abroad for dental treatment.
Fianna Fáil MEP Liam Aylward described the initiative as “a strong consumer protection measure” and said: “Where there is information that clearly demonstrates a big difference in the price of the exact same product, people are going to rightly demand answers as to why this is the case.”
To facilitate the protests that could follow the release of pricing tables, the European Union is also putting in place a common EU consumer complaints system.