Consumer group urges supermarkets to rethink loyalty schemes

Membership or the loyalty schemes are essentially giant data-mining practices, according to Choice. Source: Getty Images.

As consumer awareness continues to evolve and strengthen, fueled by a growing emphasis on transparency and fair practices, supermarkets are facing increasing pressure to reassess their discount strategies and loyalty schemes.

Consumer advocate group, Choice, has sounded the alarm about the potential drawbacks of offering further discounts to customers who’ve signed up to supermarket membership schemes.

They have urged supermarkets like Coles and Woolworths to end the practice and told a Senate inquiry into supermarket prices that more regulation was needed on how checkout prices are presented.

Choice director Rosie Thomas explained that major supermarkets offering further discounts to member shoppers only was concerning.

“The membership schemes or the loyalty schemes are essentially giant data-mining practices,” she said.

“Consumers can have a wide range of reasons for not wanting to sign up, including concerns about their privacy.

“The proliferation of promotions are confusing, and in some cases, potentially being misleading.”

Thomas added that supermarkets employing the practice was “problematic”, and called for major players like Coles and Woolworths to provide greater information on prices to customers.

“It’s very hard to come by reliable, historical pricing data for the supermarkets,

“The lack of transparency means verifying their claims about past and future pricing can be a challenging process.

“It opens up the very real possibility of mischief in supermarket pricing,” she concluded.

While Australia continues to take strain under the weight of high grocery prices, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has assured Aussies that “everything is on the table” with the government’s federal inquiry into escalating grocery prices and its commitment to reducing the cost of essential goods. 

Speaking to ABC TV, Albanese emphasised the government’s determination to ensure that cost reductions at the supermarket level translate to tangible benefits for consumers.

“We know that when we’ve seen a reduction in the cost to supermarkets, that hasn’t been passed on in an appropriate way to consumers and we want to make sure that happens,” Albanese said.

“Everything is on the table because we want to make sure that customers benefit.”

The review was initiated in October 2023 and will focus on the effectiveness of the supermarket industry code, which governs the behaviour of retailers and wholesalers.

Allegations of price gouging have fuelled concerns, prompting the government to consider strengthening consumer rights as a potential outcome.

While the various inquiries are under way, cash-strapped Aussies can adopt clever strategies to ease their pockets without having to sign up to a supermarket membership scheme.

In response to the challenges posed by escalating food prices, one Reddit user turned to the online community for advice “to get the most from your grocery shop”, sparking a wave of innovative strategies.

“I’m talking cost effective recipes, things you can make in bulk/advance and chuck in the freezer,” they added.

“I write my shopping list and compare across both the big guys (side by side browser windows), pick the most suitable product and do an online order. I also buy meat at the butcher, and fruit/veg at the greengrocer. But even with all of these it’s very pinchy, costwise.”

The Reddit community rallied with a variety of savvy approaches to tackle the rising cost of food.

“Reducing meat portions has many benefits such as economic, environmental, and you can always supplement with beans (bean salads, white bean sauce, etc). Adding variety is always a good thing.”

“If you’re in a major city, find a fruit and veg market. The Sunday produce market at Pooraka in Adelaide saves people enormous amounts of money each week.”

“Rather than order online, I go into the store. Savings right there.”

For those looking to make their groceries last longer, a clever discovery was shared: “I’ve recently discovered the joy of zip-lock bags! Our grocery shop has become smaller, and we make it go further. There are only two of us, and this might not work for all, but bottom line, we make it go further.”

Finally one Redditor joked that “tricking the self-checkout” could also be effective.

While not practical, this touch of humour highlighted the shared sentiment that Australians are willing to explore various ways to navigate rising food prices and impact on their pockets.

-With AAP

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