As supermarkets in Australia continue to face criticism for their pricing during a national cost-of-living crisis, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has added its voice to the chorus demanding pricing controls.

The organisation slams the “questionable tactics used by supermarkets to maximise profits”.

While supermarkets justify their pricing by noting the role of external pressures, their profit margins are reportedly higher than those of their international competitors.

ACTU criticises the power of the supermarket duopoly – Coles and Woolworths – to set terms and prices for Australian farmers.

Submissions to a price gouging inquiry also flagged fake discounts as a concern. Fake discounting occurs when the price of goods increases and they are advertised back at their previous price but this is now described as a “special”.

ACTU assistant secretary Joseph Mitchell commented: “It is important that those businesses contributing to increases in inflation and driving the decline in workers’ living standards be held accountable for their unfair pricing practices and that such practices are stamped out.  

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“We would also like to see a permanent price commission to ensure that hard-working Australians are not overpaying for their goods and services.”

A recent government-commissioned interim report recommended that Australia’s leading supermarkets be subject to fines of up to A$10m ($6.5m) under a proposed mandatory Food and Grocery code of conduct.

The Australian Greens introduced a bill in the Australian Senate in late March 2024 that would grant divestiture powers to target the supermarket duopoly.