Rules on pricing
Businesses are generally free to set their own prices for products and services.
This is to promote competition amongst retailers and service providers and to prevent anti-competitive practices that can result in consumers paying higher prices.
There are strict rules about how information on pricing should be displayed so that you can compare prices and make an informed buying decision. There are also more specific rules for some businesses such as pubs, restaurants and hairdressers.
This page summarises the main pricing rules covered under consumer law.
Pricing of products and services
The rules on pricing of products and services cover:
- Clear and understandable pricing
- Information about the total price
- Sale prices
- Prices to be tax-inclusive
- Wrong or misleading pricing
Clear and understandable pricing
The law sets out how traders must display prices. Prices cover the selling price, the unit price (price per unit of measurement), and reduced prices (indicated by a fraction or a percentage of the previous price).
Prices must be:
- Clearly visible and understandable
- Easily identifiable as being the price
- Near the product, or near the description of the product (for online sales)
- Displayed in Euro. Shops can also display prices in other currencies (for example, Sterling) and it does not have to be a direct conversion of the Euro price
Unit prices for products sold by weight, volume or measure must also be clearly shown (for example, price for litre or kilo, metre or square mile).
A common way for traders to display prices is by using a shelf edge label (SEL). If a trader does not have the equipment for printing SELs or for point-of-sale scanning, they can use price stickers on the goods, or just display a price list near the goods.
Information about the total price
Traders must give you information about the total price, including any taxes, and if there are extra charges (such as delivery or postal charges) Find out more about shopping online.
Sale prices must also show the prior price. The prior price is the lowest price the goods were on sale for in the 30 days before the sale. For example, a TV advertised as ‘was €1400, now €900’ must not have been available for less than €1400 in the 30 days before the sale started.
Your consumer rights are the same when you buy in a sale as at any other time. The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has more information on shopping in the sales.
Traders must not use false limited offers, where you are told an offer will only be available for a limited time and this is not the case. Find out more about unfair sales practices.
Prices to be tax-inclusive
Prices for products and services must include all taxes, including Value Added Tax (VAT), For services such as phone or electricity, VAT can be shown separately, once the total amount that you will have to pay is clear.
Products intended only for business customers (business-to-business sales) can show prices that exclude VAT. They may be marked ‘trade only’.
Wrong or misleading pricing
Traders must not display false or misleading prices. If a trader makes a mistake and the actual price is more than the price displayed, you must be told the correct price before you pay. The trader does not automatically have to sell to you at the lower price. They must correct the mistake as soon as possible. It is an offence for the trader to knowingly charge more than the price displayed.
If you notice after that you were charged a higher price than what is displayed, bring this to the trader’s attention. You can ask for a full refund or a difference in the price.
Be aware when you buy online that the contract terms often reserve the right to cancel the transaction where there has been a genuine or obvious pricing error.
Rules for specific services and businesses
Price regulation for certain services
There are some services where prices are regulated. These services include:
- Electricity: The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) checks the prices charged by energy suppliers to protect customers against over-pricing, price-fixing and to make sure that there is a healthy level of competition in the sector. CRU is the statutory body responsible for the regulation of energy and water sector in Ireland.
- Some telecommunications and postal services: For example, ComReg monitors An Post’s compliance with its legal obligations as universal service provider around the price of the services
- Financial services: Suppliers do not have to apply for approval for price changes such as a change to bank charges or interest rates, but they must tell the Central Bank of Ireland about any changes.
You can find out more about consumer protections organisations.
Price display rules for certain businesses
Some businesses must follow specific rules on displaying prices.
These rules include:
|Type of business||Rules on pricing|
|Pubs, bars and other licensed premises (other than off-licences, where the normal rules for other types of shops apply)||
These rules are in the Retail Price (Beverages in Licensed Premises) Display Order, 1999.
|Restaurants, cafés, fast food outlets, hotels and other business that sell food for eating on their premises||
These rules are in the Retail Prices (Food in Catering Establishments) Display Order, 1984.
These rules are in the Retail Prices (Diesel and Petrol) Display Order, 1997.
These rules are in the Charges (Hairdressing) Display Order, 1976.
These rules are in the Consumer Information (Advertisements for Airfares) Order 2000.
|Concert and theatre tickets||
These rules are in the Consumer Information (Advertisements for Concert or Theatre Performances) Order 1997.
These rules are set out in the Dental Council's Code of Practice.
Who enforces the rules around pricing?
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has a role to promote competition and investigate, enforce and encourage compliance with competition and consumer law.
One of the aims of competition law is to prevent anti-competitive practices that may result in consumers paying higher prices. Anti-competitive practices include:
- Price fixing: where businesses selling the same item or service agree what prices should be charged for a product or service
- Tying: where different products are linked together to prevent consumer choice
- Resale price maintenance: where resellers are not allowed to set prices independently
If you have a complaint about the pricing of any good and service, you should first complain directly to the trader. Find out more about how to make a complaint.
You can complain to the CCPC if you think a trader is not complying with competition and consumer laws or the laws around the display of prices.
You can find more information about what the CCPC does.
The laws on pricing
The laws on pricing include:
The CCPC has more information about pricing.