A shopper checks unit prices to save on grocery bills. Picture: Eugene Hyland
A shopper checks unit prices to save on grocery bills. Picture: Eugene Hyland

Shoppers set to lose valuable price hack

CONSUMER advocates say a review of how unit pricing rules can help supermarket shoppers to save money is being underplayed.

The federal Government yesterday released a discussion paper on the laws covering unit pricing which are due to expire next year unless a mandatory code of conduct is updated.

But Queensland Consumer Association spokesman Ian Jarratt, who led the successful campaign for the laws to be introduced in 2009, is disappointed by the timing and scale of the review.

Submissions are due by December 18 and Mr Jarratt said: "It's not great to have it so close to Christmas and the holiday period. It's a bad time of the year to try to consult with people on something so important."

Unit pricing requires large grocery retailers to display "prominent, legible and unambiguous" shelf labelling that shows consumers how much they are paying for a standard measurement - for example per kilo or per litre - so they can easily compare value for money across products and brands.

Mr Jarratt said Australians have embraced the system enthusiastically and are reaping the benefits but there is room for more improvement.

"The grocery industry is worth about $100 billion. Groceries account for a significant amount of household expenditure for a lot of people.

"There is potential for big savings. Our surveys show 20 to 40 per cent savings can be achieved."

But with the laws lapsing next October under a 10-year sunset clause unless they are renewed, he is sceptical whether there is time to make important changes such as expanding it to smaller retailers.

The code currently applies only to supermarkets of 1000sq m or more.

"Most Aldi stores would not be that big so strictly they don't have to provide unit pricing but do so voluntarily," he said.

"But the trend is towards smaller supermarkets so many could be excluded unless the law is changed."

The consumer group also wants to see unit pricing extended to other retailers such as chemists and hardware stores.

"It's a valuable tool for consumers but it's not yet delivering its full potential," Mr Jarratt said.

Consultations close on December 18. More information is available here.



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