Supermarkets put on notice to pass on savings to customers doing it tough

Jan 08, 2024
While a Senate inquiry into allegations of "price gouging" has been established, hearings are not scheduled to commence until February. Source: Getty Images.

In a bid to alleviate the burden on consumers grappling with rising living costs, supermarkets are facing renewed pressure to pass on savings to customers when meat and food prices experience a dip.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers has issued a stern warning, asserting that when wholesale prices decrease, the checkout bills should follow suit.

Addressing reporters in Brisbane, Chalmers emphasised the government’s commitment to reviewing competition laws to benefit individuals facing financial challenges in supermarkets across Australia.

“We are concerned that when the price for meat and fruit and vegetables at the farm gate goes down, we want to see the price of those goods go down on the supermarket shelves as well,”Chalmers said.

“If the supermarkets are buying it cheaper, they should be selling it cheaper, too.”

The treasurer is actively engaged with the consumer watchdog, which diligently monitors prices across the economy. Chalmers is set to discuss the matter further with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) this week, emphasising the need to ensure effective monitoring arrangements.

“This is a fairly regular topic of conversation, how we make sure that we’ve got the monitoring arrangements right,” Chalmers said.

Source: Glenn Campbell/AAP PHOTOS.

Consumer spending expert Graeme Hughes expressed the frustration felt by shoppers, who, despite their dissatisfaction, find themselves with limited alternatives due to a lack of competition in the market.

“Consumers have little power to vote with their feet due to the lack of competition,” he said.

Nationals Leader David Littleproud recently pushed for the ACCC to launch an inquiry into the prices of everyday goods at supermarkets. Littleproud suggested that had the investigation been initiated earlier by the Labor party, solutions could have been provided before Christmas for many Australians facing financial difficulties.

He argued that relying on professionals with expertise and tools is more prudent than leaving the matter to politicians.

Coles has defended its pricing structure, asserting that prices are determined by market forces and are also influenced by seasonal conditions and supply and demand. Woolworths echoed similar sentiments, stating that it consistently strives to strike the right balance between providing access to high-quality produce and ensuring suppliers receive a fair market price.

While a Senate inquiry into allegations of “price gouging” has been established, hearings are not scheduled to commence until February.

-with AAP.

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