The Irish government has ordered an investigation into high prices in response to the changeover to the euro.
Tom Kitt, the Minister for Consumer Affairs, said the euro's first month had confirmed Dublin's view that it would benefit Ireland's economy. But Mr Kitt, who was prominently involved in the changeover, also conceded that it had uncovered the degree to which prices were steeper in Ireland than in other parts of the European Union, and announced a study of the costings.
"The floodlights are now sharply focused on prices throughout the length and breadth of the eurozone and any retailer who thinks he or she can exploit the consumer will have nowhere to hide," he said. Mr Kitt stressed the right of consumers to ask why there were such marked differences across EU member states.
"Whereas the new transparency, combined with a vigilant and critical media, will lead to a more competitive trading environment among the 12 states, I believe the data produced so far has demonstrated that the prices charged in Ireland for some of the goods surveyed may be higher than necessary, when compared with prices charged for the same goods in the other countries," he said.
"Notwithstanding the issues of different levels of taxes within the eurozone, I believe the consumer is entitled to ask the simple question – why is there this disparity in prices?"
Mr Kitt said the question needed to be put first to those traders who were charging higher prices for goods that were sold "much more cheaply" in other member states.
Non-governmental and consumer organisations throughout the eurozone had a vital role in "maintaining the spotlight" on pricing, he said, adding that there should be a collective strategy. "The consumer cannot lose if we progress the issue in this unified manner."