ACCC launches Unit Man to help consumers understand unit pricing

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 2nd November 2009

A caped calculator character called Unit Man will soon be seen in supermarkets and grocery catalogues across Australia in an endeavour to assist consumers better understand unit pricing – which was brought into law earlier this year.Unit pricing is a labelling system that shows prices per standard unit of measurement such as by volume or by weight. For example, laundry detergent in a 2.5 litre bottle priced at $7.62 will have a unit price per litre of $3.05.

“Unit Man has been developed to capture consumer attention and encourage shoppers to make the most of unit pricing, which makes it quicker and easier to compare the price of products across all sizes and brands,” Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Graeme Samuel said.

Unit Man will start to appear in grocery catalogues and online in early November. Consumers will also see Unit Man at some check out screens in the lead-up to 1 December when unit pricing becomes compulsory for supermarkets with a floor space greater than 1000 square metres that sell a minimum range of food-based groceries.

Grocery Inquiry

The unit pricing initiative arose out of the ACCC’s 2008 Grocery Inquiry and was one of the first recommendations to be acted upon. Restrictive leases have also faced a crackdown, while a grocery price comparison website – the first initiative – was an abject failure.

“Unit pricing will build on other activities to promote competition in the grocery sector including the recently announced ACCC agreement with Coles and Woolworths to phase out all restrictive provisions in supermarket leases,” Mr Samuel suggested.

Under that agreement both companies will not include restrictive provisions in any new supermarket leases and will phase them out of existing ones. A similar agreement is now being sought from other supermarket operators.

“Reducing barriers to retailers getting into the market through the abolition of restrictive provisions, together with empowering consumers to make well informed decisions at the checkout through unit pricing, goes to improving competition in the grocery sector at a range of levels, with Australians potentially paying lower prices as a result.”

The ACCC added that they welcomed the support from the grocery industry in the development and promotion of Unit Man.