Queensland to become first state to introduce mandatory unit pricing

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 26th June 2008

Queensland is set to be the first state to introduce mandatory unit pricing in supermarkets.

Premier Anna Bligh released the proposal for public comment today, which would require supermarkets to display not only the selling price on each grocery item but also the price per unit (ie kilograms or litres).

“Unit pricing ensures consumers are better informed to choose brands or package sizes that offer the most value-for-money and can significantly reduce their grocery bills,” Ms Bligh claimed.

Ms Bligh cited research by the Queensland Consumer Association when trying to outline the benefits of the plan. “A trial by the Queensland Consumer Association demonstrated savings of up to 47 percent on an average basket of groceries when shopping by the lowest unit price,” she said.

Ms Bligh reported that groceries are the second biggest item in a household budget after housing costs, and international experience had shown that unit pricing could make a positive difference. “And consumers vote with their feet – in Finland for example, 42 percent of consumers changed brands after the introduction of unit pricing, and 33 percent changed package size,” she advised. “Unit-pricing increases competition, and competition historically drives down cost – this is about empowering Queensland consumers at the check-out.”

The regulations are likely to be in place by the end of September, with consultation with industry to take place to determine an appropriate implementation period.

CEO of the Australian National Retailers Association (ANRA) Margy Osmond has, however, questioned the need for QLD regulation mandating unit pricing in supermarkets. “Most of the major supermarkets have already indicated they are moving to introducing unit pricing, so there seems little need for government regulation,” Mrs Osmond said.

Mrs Osmond believes it would make sense for Queensland to wait until the ACCC hands down it’s recommendations into the potential benefit of implementing national guidelines. “At a time when all governments have promised to reduce red tape, there must be a nationally consistent approach for all food retailers,” she added. “The QLD Government should at least await the outcome of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s inquiry into grocery prices before it introduces prescriptive, costly rules for retailers.”

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Kerry Shine has indicated the proposal would exclude the small ‘corner store’. “Major supermarket chains have already publicly voiced their support for unit pricing, however we recognise the implementation cost of this proposal would be unreasonably high for smaller outlets,” Mr Shine said.

Public comment on unit pricing options is open until 28 July 2008.

To find out more about unit pricing please click here.