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Australian supermarkets under the spotlight: ACCC

Australian supermarkets under the spotlight: ACCC
Australian supermarkets under the spotlight: ACCC

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) calls on the public to step forward with any information to help their inquiry into local supermarkets. 

This is per the government’s instruction, seeking clarity around the “pricing practices of supermarkets” and the relationship between wholesale, farmgate, and retail prices. 

Online shopping concerns will also be under the microscope during the year-long investigation. This will focus on “recent trends, including online shopping, technological changes, and loyalty programs.” 

High prices and headaches

“We know grocery prices have become a major concern for the millions of Australians experiencing cost of living pressures,” is the acknowledgment from ACCC chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb.

The investigation will also cover fresh produce from farmers. The ACCC is concerned about the “weak correlation between the price they receive for their produce and the price consumers pay at the checkout.”

This price mismatch stirs public outcry as the tight economy tightens customers’ budgets. 

The outcomes could also have legal implications for retailers, as they use their “full range of legal powers” to probe the supermarket sector. According to Cass-Gottlieb, any problems identified will be pointed out with recommendations on how to rectify them.

Claims and accusations

7News Australia reported in December how two leading supermarkets, Coles and Woolworths, are accused of ‘ripping off customers’ in a cost of living crisis. They allegedly charge “much more than what they should be.”

In December 2023, Locate2u News reported on a parliamentary inquiry set up to look into the food affordability of Australia, with a sharp focus on Woolworths and Coles. This came after the political party, the Greens, handed in a petition to the government. It claimed that families struggled to feed themselves and their children, while Coles and Woolworths “are making billions of profit.”

Neither of the two supermarkets has responded to the serious claims. 

In August 2023, Coles made a 4.8% full-year profit

Outcomes and findings

An interim report will be submitted to the government “later this year,” but no specific dates have yet been communicated. 

The final report is expected to be finished by February next year. 

Established in 1195, the ACCC is pivotal in administering and enforcing the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 and other legislation. It seeks to promote fair competition, reasonable trading, and regulation of national infrastructure. At the heart of its decision is the intention to keep rulings in line with the best interest of all Australians.  

The ACCC is the voice of consumers to “increase the prosperity and welfare of Australians.” On the other hand, the independent body must always ensure trade is competitive. Where needed, markets lead to lower prices for better quality, with more choices. 

More inquiries by ACCC

In 2008, the ACCC also conducted an inquiry, after which Coles and Woolworths committed to make some changes.  This was to “eliminate restrictive tenancy provisions” that could have hindered shopping centers from leasing space to rival supermarkets.

“Competitive markets encourage better prices and quality, as well as greater choice,” says ACCC’s Mick Keogh.

Keogh says the investigation is a “broad-ranging inquiry” and could highlight additional concerns.

About the author

Mia is a multi-award-winning journalist. She has more than 14 years of experience in mainstream media. She's covered many historic moments that happened in Africa and internationally. She has a strong focus on human interest stories, to bring her readers and viewers closer to the topics at hand.

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