Below-cost legislation: lessons from the Republic of Ireland


Collins A & Burt S (2011) Below-cost legislation: lessons from the Republic of Ireland. International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research, 21 (1), pp. 33-49.;

This paper traces the emergence, evolution, and demise of below cost legislation in the grocery industry in the republic of Ireland. The paper adds to our understanding of the legislation by adopting the view that, by using the net invoice price as its definition of cost, the legislation increased two streams of quasi-rents, first on suppliers’ brandeds and second on retailers’ own brands which acted to depress competitive forces and direct supplier-buyer negotiations to off-invoice discounts. Supplier generated quasi-rents financed discounts, and when coupled with retailers’ higher margins on their own brands, provided little incentive for a return to a price competitive environment. Two factors undermined this situation: the substitution of discounters’ products for suppliers’ brands as the discounters share of the market grew and the increase in cross border shopping. These had the combined effect of reducing the available quasi-rents earned in the Irish market resulting in the breakdown of the status quo and a return to price competition. Through its impact on negotiations, the legislation also introduced inefficiencies to both retailers’ and suppliers businesses representing additional waste that could have been more productively used to reduce consumer prices. The paper endorses the Government’s decision to rescind the order and remove an important constraint on both vertical and horizontal competition. Lessons from the Republic of Ireland suggest that the competitive response to the removal of below cost legislation, and reductions in prices, may take time and will depend on economic circumstances and a change in the prevailing norms of organizational behaviour and quasi-rent seeking opportunities

grocery market; below cost legislation; off-invoice discounts; quasi rents; Grocery trade Ireland; Retail trade Ireland

International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research: Volume 21, Issue 1

Publication date28/02/2011
PublisherTaylor & Francis (Routledge)
Publisher URL