Call to review grocery pricing rules

A recent survey of 6,500 older people revealed that the cost of groceries is one of their biggest cost-of-living concerns, especially among those who rent or are relying on the pension.

The survey was conducted by National Seniors Australia (NSA) and CEO Chris Grice said consumers everywhere are feeling the pinch but for many older Australians, being able to afford basic essentials is increasingly difficult and comes at the expense of other items.

“We recently heard from a member who grocery shops once every three weeks, buys ‘seconds’ fruit and vegetables, only small amounts of cheap cuts of meat, and mainly eats chicken or fish to save money.

“Anything non-essential, such as a packet of biscuits, doesn’t go into her trolley.”

Mr Grice added, “The time to ease cost-of-living pressures at the supermarket checkout is now.

“A simple, cost-effective and consumer-effective way to do this is to make it easier for shoppers to compare the unit price of items in-store and online and help them make sure they’re receiving the best value for money.”

NSA has joined the Queensland Consumers Association (QCA) in calling on the Federal Government to review unit pricing rules, including strengthening the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) power to enforce unit pricing rules to help consumers make better choices at the supermarket.

QCA consumer advocate, Ian Jarratt, said grocery shoppers can achieve significant savings by comparing unit prices and being prepared to change pack size, brand and packaged versus loose produce.

“However, the unit price of many grocery products can be difficult to notice because of where it’s placed, difficult to read because of the font size, difficult to understand because different units of measure are used for similar products and unit prices are not always displayed,” Mr Jarratt said.

“These difficulties greatly reduce the number of consumers who use unit pricing to compare prices, the frequency of use and the much-needed savings shoppers could be making.

“This is despite the mandatory Grocery Unit Pricing Code administered by the ACCC that requires retailers to provide unit prices that are prominent, legible, and close on the selling price.”

Both NSA and the QCA said the solution is simple – to ensure all unit prices covered by the code are easy for all consumers to notice, read and understand, and use in-store and online.

For example, shoppers should not have to bend very far to read small print unit prices of products on the lower shelves – which they must do in many supermarkets.

The code should be independently reviewed and better enforced by the ACCC, which should have the power to prosecute retailers.

“More effective unit pricing of groceries would empower grocery shoppers to help themselves to reduce cost of living pressures,” Mr Jarratt said.

“It would also increase competition in the grocery sector. Value shopping should not, and need not, be that hard.”

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