Grocery comparison pricing to expire next year

Money-saving supermarket price comparisons under review ahead of 2019 expiry date.

supermarket comparison pricing under review

Since supermarkets introduced unit pricing in July 2009, shoppers have been able to save money on groceries by comparing different brands of the same product based on a standardised pricing according to weight, volume or unit.

However, the code that mandates what is known as unit pricing is under review ahead of its expiry date next year.

But a huge public response to the impending end of supermarket comparison pricing has forced the Government to extend the submissions deadline by more than two months.

Under the Retail Grocery Industry Code of Conduct, supermarkets and online grocers must display the unit price of household staples, together with the headline price.

Before the code lapses on 1 October 2019, the Government is assessing its effectiveness and calling for the public’s views.

When consultation began last month, consumers were encouraged to complete an online survey to give the Government instant feedback on the issue.

“The consultation … has already generated a high level of interest with a consumer survey on consumer experiences with grocery unit pricing receiving more than 500 responses in the first two weeks,” Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert said in a statement.

“Previous consultations have identified interest in exploring a range of issues such as how unit prices are displayed and whether the obligation to display unit prices should be extended from large format grocery retailers to smaller grocery stores or more widely in the retail sector.

“I’m encouraged that consumers and business have been engaging on whether to remake the code, and whether it would benefit from any amendments. I encourage all stakeholders to contribute to this process.”

The Government has released a discussion paper on the Treasury website, where submissions can also be lodged.

The consultation period was due to close on 18 December, but submissions can now be provided until 28 February 2019.

According to the discussion paper, a 2012 review found that the code “had been effective and efficient in meeting its objectives over the post-implementation period; it was likely to do so into the future; and that it continued to remain an appropriate response to achieve the objective of supporting Australian households to save time and money, and increasing price competition in the grocery market”.

That review found that the total cost of implementing unit pricing was reported by the major retailers as being no more than $27 million and that ongoing compliance costs were low.

It also found “that households that actively use unit prices would only need to benefit by 32 cents per week, on an average weekly grocery bill of $176, for the benefits to outweigh its costs”.

“There is reasonable evidence to suggest that the code is assisting consumers in informing their purchasing choices.

“This paper seeks views on whether the regime is continuing to be effective and benefitting consumers and the potential for alternative consumer impacts if the code was not remade after it sunsets in October 2019.”

For more information about the current review and how to make a submission, contact Treasury’s consumer policy unit on (02) 6263 2111 or write to: unitpricingreview@treasury.gov.au.

Do you rely on unit pricing when you shop for groceries? Do you prefer to shop by brand or price? Has unit pricing helped you save money? Do you want unit pricing to continue?

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    COMMENTS

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    MICK
    14th Dec 2018
    10:31am
    The heading for this article was "You could be paying much more for groceries next year".
    Either Olga had a blond moment or its Friday.
    Charlie
    14th Dec 2018
    11:16am
    I have never used this unit pricing system to search for a better deal, but last week I refused to buy a food item when I was informed over the counter, of the new price.

    Sometimes there is a perception in small business that liberal government will make everything profitable. So prices go up, but then everybody says fku and stops spending.
    Rae
    16th Dec 2018
    7:23am
    Unfortunately they don't though. They just keep spending regardless of price rises which is exactly why the retailers can get away with demanding more and more profit.

    If we did stop spending then business would panic, lobby the government and incomes would rise.

    We are still doing incredibly well though. Sit outside your local TAB or newsagent and watch how many line up for lotto, lottery, scratches etc. Or just take a look at the cafe or club full of pensioners at lunch time. Spending tens of dollars discretionary income every day.

    Still doing very well indeed.

    And there are always cheaper options. Right now fruit and veg in season, pork, chicken, some types of fish and eggs, milk etc are quite reasonable if you shop around.

    I refuse to pay excessive prices too. There are always alternatives including not spending if it's not a real need.
    Thoughtful
    14th Dec 2018
    1:38pm
    Save the money on implementing and monitoring this and supply a calculator with the shopping trolleys.
    Anonymous
    14th Dec 2018
    5:37pm
    Use your phone
    Thoughtful
    14th Dec 2018
    6:36pm
    I was going to say that but for those who don't have a phone (or don't know how to use it ) I thought the fixed calculator option sounded better. But of course people prioritize the latest phone over eating - silly me!
    Ted Wards
    14th Dec 2018
    2:58pm
    I only eat fresh fruit and veg which I get from my local farmers market. I now save over a $100 a fortnight by making this change. I used to get the same amount of fruit and veg from my local supermarket and it cost me $150 and fortnight (single person). Now I spend $50 a fortnight, if that. Processed foods are expensive and is what is killing us!
    musicveg
    15th Dec 2018
    8:35pm
    I agree Ted, it is cheap to eat fruit and veg, I get mine from a local supplier who organizes it to come straight from the market, all organic, prices fluctuate with the seasons, I noticed bananas have gone down in price, often I pay less than my local IGA which only has conventional fruit and veg( no Coles or Woolies in town). I also grow some things to supplement my supply.
    Pass the Ductape
    14th Dec 2018
    4:33pm
    'Grocery comparison pricing to expire next year'....seen it all before - retailers will use very trick in the book to skim the customer.

    1. Plastic bags were first mooted by the retail association (because the customer wanted it - yeah right) as having a not insignificant cost having to be added to products to cover the cost of these bags. Have they deducted that cost from store products now that they've been banned - NO!
    2. When decimal currency came into being, the price of everything was rounded up or down to the nearest 5c., sometimes even to the advantage of the customer, but to the smart cookies in the retail sector, this wasn't good enough! In the money system you now almost always see the price of goods ticketed so that the price, when rounded out, is almost exclusively to the high side of the next 5c. Worth millions of dollars to retailers in general when all funding transactions are taken into account.
    3. Now we see notices in shops advising customers that due to a refund of money for the return of bottle containers etc., the cost of 'some' products will unfortunately have to rise.
    What's the bet that retailers will once again slug the customer on a myriad of items NOT on the refund list, under the guise of this purchasing condition - despite their protestations to the contrary .
    Anonymous
    14th Dec 2018
    5:38pm
    Oh stop whining

    Use your phone app to give you an instantaneous comparison as you shop
    Pass the Ductape
    15th Dec 2018
    5:47am
    Don't see the connection!
    KB
    14th Dec 2018
    9:04pm
    Prices will remain the same or go up or down regardless of unit pricing . Never bother with unit pricing .
    GeorgeM
    15th Dec 2018
    12:07am
    It's a good piece of information for the consumer, and must continue. The Govt should save itself the cost of the review and simply continue it. Can't see any reason for anyone to object to it, however if some dodos (who don't mind getting fooled) don't want to use it then that's their choice.