The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has been tasked by the Albanese government to conduct a comprehensive inquiry into supermarket pricing and competition.
The initiative aims to ascertain whether Australians are being charged fairly for their groceries.
The inquiry, the first of its kind since 2008, will last 12 months and scrutinise retail prices, competition and supermarket price-gouging allegations.
The ACCC’s investigation is part of the government’s broader strategy to enhance competition and alleviate the financial burden on Australians.
This includes a review of the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct and a focus on cost-of-living measures within the competition review.
The inquiry will examine the supermarket industry from its structure at the supply, wholesale and retail levels to the impact of online shopping and the competitiveness of small and independent retailers.
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The ACCC will also delve into supermarket pricing practices, factors influencing prices along the supply chain and any barriers to competitive pricing.
Other elements under scrutiny will include loyalty programmes and third-party discounts.
The competition regulator is expected to file an interim report during 2024, with the final report due in early 2025, providing the government with findings and recommendations.
In preparation for the inquiry, the ACCC plans to release an issues paper in February 2024 to gather public input on the key issues.
Welcoming the government’s announcement, ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh said: “Competitive markets encourage more attractive combinations of price and quality for consumers, as well as greater choice.
“Our inquiry will examine the nature of the current competitive environment between supermarkets, as well as the barriers to greater competition and new entry in the sector.
“We believe we are well-placed to conduct this broad-ranging inquiry and will bring to bear our expertise in competition, consumer law, agriculture and the supermarket sector in particular.”
In 2008, the ACCC launched an inquiry into Coles and Woolworths, which led the two retailers to remove restrictive tenancy provisions.