Small business calls for grocery price website to be shutdown

Posted by James Ferre on 27th August 2008

The Council of Small Business of Australia (COSBOA) claims the Consumer Choice website has misleading information that gives free promotion for Coles and Woolworths and provides distorted information to consumers and have called for the website to be shutdown.

“I hope the government receives a fee from Coles and Woolworths for advertising and promotion of their brand,” said Bob Stanton, Chairman of COSBOA.

Mr Stanton highlighted the example of the ‘Metropolitan Perth and Surrounds’ basket prices that show the independents are the better option for consumers but they
don’t have the names of those independents so consumers have no idea where to get those savings. “The consumer is not being supported through this website,” he claimed. “They are not being told where to get the best prices, they are not being told if Woolworths has the same price in all its stores, which they don’t, they are not being told that the cheaper price may be in a supermarket that is 10 kilometres away and any saving they make is lost in the cost of petrol.”

Mr Stanton suggested other costs could make supermarkets which appear cheaper actually more expensive. “The large supermarkets are often found in big malls, does grocery choice take into account the cost of parking?” He queried. “Independents are often found in suburbs; does grocery choice include a factor for convenience of shopping on the way home?”

“COSBOA has access to experts who can help the government design and publish a website that provides more useful information to consumers, until then the site must be closed down,” they concluded in a statement.

The Federal Government is likely to modify the site in coming months and stand by the notion that it can be beneficial to consumers and competition. “This is about giving consumers something new that the supermarket chains won’t tell them, who is the cheapest overall in their area,” a spokesman for Consumer Affairs Minister Chris Bowen told AAP. “This is a government who actually believes that greater competition and transparency will benefit the consumer and that’s where we are focused.”

The number of hits to the website reportedly dropped from 2.3 million in its first week to 300,000 in the second week.