Australia’s consumer advocacy group CHOICE has submitted recommendations to the government’s supermarket pricing inquiry in response to rising concerns over grocery costs.  

The group’s submission highlights the need for measures to protect consumers from pricing strategies employed by the country’s leading supermarket chains which it describes as manipulative. 

CHOICE’s recommendations, which advocate for greater pricing transparency, aim to create a fairer shopping environment by proposing that supermarkets publish historical pricing data, enabling consumers to monitor price fluctuations.  

The group also calls for a prohibition on potentially misleading promotional practices and the reinforcement of unit pricing regulations to ensure customers understand the value of their purchases. 

The consumer group further suggests the implementation of mandatory standards for clear and consistent pricing information, along with the requirement for supermarkets to disclose any changes in product prices or sizes.  

CHOICE criticises current complex pricing methods for their lack of transparency and accountability which can disproportionately affect low-income households, forcing them to make tough choices between essential needs. 

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CHOICE senior policy and campaigns adviser Bea Sherwood said: “People are sick of feeling tricked by specials that aren’t specials, and feeling pushed into membership programmes and multi-buy deals where they end up buying more than they need.  

“This kind of behaviour from the major supermarkets is simply not acceptable and is particularly harmful in a cost-of-living crisis.” 

The advocacy group says it has found countless examples of “confusing” specials at Coles and Woolworths, the two major supermarket chains that control 65% of the food and groceries market in Australia. 

In a survey, the group found that 83% of shoppers said some specials or promotions offered by the two retailers made it difficult to know if it was a genuine discount. 

In January 2024 the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission was tasked by the Albanese government to conduct a comprehensive inquiry into supermarket pricing and competition.