Opening Bell: Car sales fall, SME confidence, Vodafone refunds

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Irish motor retailers have had a difficult start to the year. New car sales dipped by 8% during the first quarter and commercial vehicle sales are also down.

The Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) has warned that 2017 will be an "unpredictable" year.

The author of the quarterly report, which was produced in association with Done Deal, economist Jim Power commented:

"Consumer behaviour remains relatively cautious. Personal expenditure on big-ticket items such as cars is being undermined by the ongoing upward pressure on the price of necessities such as motor and home insurance, private rents, private health insurance and housing."
Almost 60% of SME's say Ireland has improved as a place to do business.

Despite concerns over Brexit, new research carried out by Vodafone has found that Irish businesses have a generally positive outlook for 2017.
It notes that while 96% of these businesses have websites, only 34% have the ability to process orders online.
67% said they are concerned that they may miss out on business opportunities due to poor communications infrastructure.
Staying with Vodafone Ireland, it says refunds are on the way to some of its customers who were charged twice for credit and debit card payments.
The company issued a statement last night saying they were aware of a problem caused by a processing error and apologising for any inconvenience caused. 
Affected customers will be refunded over the next few days and will also receive an SMS message with confirmation of the refund.
Brussels is reported to have begun systematically shutting British groups out from multi-billion-euro contracts.
The Financial Times claims the EU has called for companies to be reminded of the "legal repercussions" of Brexit - and that it is urging firms to establish offices in other EU states.

The paper says it's seen an internal memo where Commission officials have told staff to avoid "unnecessary additional complications" as Brexit begins.