Consumers invited to contribute to supermarket investigation

March 11, 2024 BY

Community members will have until April 2 to share their grocery shopping experiences with the inquiry. Photo: SHUTTERSHOCK

THE Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is calling on community members to share their shopping experiences, as the regulatory body begins its investigation into Australia’s supermarkets.

The inquiry is expected to take a year and will examine pricing and competition across the sector, with particular regard to how prices are set at different levels of the supply chain.

The investigation was initiated in January by the federal government following higher-than-average inflation, declining disposable income and increases in the prices of goods and services.

For consumers, there have been growing concerns about price gouging, misleading pricing practices and “shrinkflation”, where items decrease in size or quantity while the price remains the same.

As part of the inquiry, community members have been invited to complete an online survey to improve the ACCC’s understanding of where and how Australians buy groceries, and how factors such as price changes and loyalty programs influence how they shop.

Consumers will also have an opportunity to include information about any grocery shopping experiences they believe were confusing or misleading.

“We know that consumers and suppliers alike have a range of concerns about Australia’s major supermarkets, and this is their chance to have their say,” ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh said.

“We will be using our legal powers to compulsorily obtain data and documents from the supermarkets themselves, but consultation with consumers and grocery sector participants is an important first step in our inquiry.”

About 42 per cent of households across the country have cited grocery bills as a significant financial stressor in recent months, while Coles and Woolworths, Australia’s two major supermarkets, have reported record annual profits surpassing $1 billion.

“One of our major focus areas will be the supermarkets’ approach to setting prices and whether there is evidence to show that a lack of effective retail competition is contributing to higher prices,” Mr Keogh said.

“We will conduct a detailed comparison of the price suppliers receive for their goods and the price consumers pay at the checkout and the profits the supermarkets earn.

“In addition, we will be looking at the other issues such as loyalty schemes, discounting practices, the shift to online shopping and the impact of home-brand products.”

The ACCC is also seeking submissions from farmers, wholesalers, retailers and stakeholders in relation to competition with supply chains, trading arrangements, price transparency and supermarket buying power.

The last comprehensive review of the supermarket sector was conducted by the ACCC in 2008.

The online survey will remain open until April 2 and can be completed by heading to consultation.accc.gov.au/accc/supermarkets-inquiry-consumer-survey