Rules on pricing

Introduction

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

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)
  • Two lists of drinks prices must be displayed – a full list of all items sold and a summary list of the 16 most popular drinks for sale. The 16-drink list must be clearly displayed either inside or directly outside the entrance to the premises.
  • If there are different prices in different areas of the licensed premises (for example, prices for drinks in the lounge and in the bar) these notices need to be displayed prominently in all areas where the products are sold.
  • If the prices change after a certain time (for example, after 11pm), this also needs to be displayed on the notice

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
  • A full price list of food items must be displayed
  • The notice should be clear and visible immediately outside or directly inside where the food is served
  • For hotels or licensed premises where food is being served in some areas, the notice can be displayed either at the entrance to the premises or at the entrance to the catering area
  • Restaurants do not have to provide menus, but if they do, the prices should be the same as the prices displayed outside or at the entrance
  • Any extra charges that apply, such as service or cover charges, must also be stated clearly on the notice
  • If takeaways do not display items on a price list, the price must be displayed either on the goods or near them

These rules are in the Retail Prices (Food in Catering Establishments) Display Order, 1984.

Service stations
  • A notice of prices that shows price per litre of petrol or diesel must be clearly visible from the side of the road
  • The notice must be in writing and be at least 20cm in height
  • The actual price charged at the petrol pump must match the price displayed

These rules are in the Retail Prices (Diesel and Petrol) Display Order, 1997.

Hairdressers
  • A notice showing the charges for every service provided must be displayed
  • The notice must be visible from the street or immediately inside the entrance to the premises

These rules are in the Charges (Hairdressing) Display Order, 1976.

Airlines
  • The total price must be clearly stated in every advert for airfares
  • The total price must include all charges, including taxes
  • Any restrictions that apply must be clearly stated in the advert (for example, the airfare only applies to flights between certain dates and times)

These rules are in the Consumer Information (Advertisements for Airfares) Order 2000.

Concert and theatre tickets
  • A written advert must indicate the admission price
  • Any additional charge, and why it is applied, must be stated separately in either monetary or percentage terms – for example, an extra charge for paying by credit card must be stated
  • For all other forms of advertising the admission price must be stated together with notice that you may have to pay an additional charge in certain circumstances

These rules are in the Consumer Information (Advertisements for Concert or Theatre Performances) Order 1997.

Dental practices
  • Dentists must display private fees in a place where patients can view them before consultation
  • For certain specified procedures a single fee should apply
  • The fee for certain other procedures should be shown as a range with both the minimum and maximum fee clearly stated
  • For all other treatments, an estimate of the cost should be provided, and the patient must consent to the cost before treatment starts

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

More information

The CCPC has more information about pricing.

Find out more about your consumer rights and advertising rules.

Competition and Consumer Protection Commission

Bloom House
Railway Street
Dublin 1
D01 C576

Opening Hours: Lines open Monday-Friday, from 9am - 6pm
Tel: (01) 402 5555 and (01) 402 5500

Commission for Regulation of Utilities

Customer Care Team

P.O. Box 11934
Dublin 24
D24 PXW0
Ireland

Locall: 1800 404 404
Fax: (01) 4000 850

Courts Service

15-24 Phoenix Street North
Smithfield
Dublin 7
D07 F95Y
Ireland

Tel: +353 (0)1 888 6000

Dental Council

57 Merrion Square
Dublin
Ireland

Tel: +353 (0)1 6762069
Fax: +353 (0)1 6762076
Page edited: 6 December 2022