Federal Government calls for unit pricing feedback

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 15th September 2008

Competition Policy & Consumer Affairs Minister, Chris Bowen, has released an issues paper calling for public comment on developing a national unit pricing regime.

This is the next step toward introducing a nationally-consistent unit pricing regime, announced as part of the Government’s preliminary response to the release of the ACCC’s Grocery Inquiry.

Unit pricing (or comparative pricing) is the display of the price of goods per unit of measure, for example per 100 grams, per kilogram, per litre or per item and is to be introduced in an endeavour to reduce prices for consumers. “Unit pricing will enable consumers to make fast and accurate price comparisons on packaged grocery items in supermarkets,” Mr Bowen claimed. “Independent studies have found that consumers who use unit pricing can make substantial savings.”

The unit pricing issues paper raises a number of important considerations that the Government will be examining as it develops a national unit pricing regime.

They include:

* How can the Government maximise the benefits of unit pricing for consumers?
* How prominent should the unit price be on labelling or advertising?
* On what basis should smaller retailers be exempt from a unit pricing regime?

Copies of the issues paper can be obtained from the Treasury website – www.treasury.gov.au.

The closing date for submissions is Friday 10 October 2008. Submissions may be lodged electronically, by post or facsimile.

Recently, a Senate Committee report into unit pricing was completed to assess the Unit Pricing Bill proposed by Family First Senator Steve Fielding. The report supported the “policy intent” of the Bill but recommended the Bill not be passed due to concerns that it doesn’t strike “the right balance”. In particular, they were worried about the “exemption criteria for grocery stores required to implement mandatory unit pricing; the definition of grocery retailers and grocery products; the definition of units of measure for unit pricing; and the definition of the required font size for unit pricing”.

A unit pricing scheme to be phased in over the course of 12 months was still recommended and the report can be found at: www.aph.gov.au/Senate/committee/economics_ctte/unit_pricing_08/report/index.htm