Prices rise as few control market

Soaring global petrol prices have been a key factor in pushing consumer price increases to record highs recently but a lack of competition in key sectors is also contributing to accelerating inflation. According to industry sources, price hikes of basic consumer goods so far this year have often ranged between 10 to 20 percent. Since the start of 2008, some 200 companies have upped the prices of their products above the country’s inflation rate of 4.4 percent. Recent figures also show that basic consumer goods in Greece are more expensive than in other European countries where workers are offered more generous remuneration. Experts blame transport costs and higher taxes on food items for the difference. Indicative of the high level of market concentration is the supermarket sector. Less than 5 percent of suppliers may account for more than 50 percent of a supermarket’s turnover. The Competition Committee has been appointed the task of monitoring the market for distortions but data shows that its role has been a minor one. The commission has imposed fines of around 115 million euros since 1998 for different offenses, including harmonized pricing practices and abusing market power. The fines related to 21 cases that involved 40 different businesses. However, only 12 million euros have been collected after appeals by companies and penalty reductions.