Xenophon to introduce motion for drastic changes to GROCERYchoice website

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 21st November 2008

Independent South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon is planning to introduce a notice of motion to Parliament next week that will seek changes to the current GROCERYchoice website.

The survey, implemented following the Grocery Price Inquiry, has been criticised by some, who claim it does not provide enough timely information for consumers and allay concerns that too much focus is on Coles and Woolworths. The grouping of all independents together has also been questioned.

The ACCC has advised that the site is merely meant to be a guide, with other factors such as location, service quality, product quality and range needing to be taken into account by consumers.

Supermarket aisle - shopping trolley

Senator Xenophon claims the information provided is too broad, dictating that it offers little assistance to consumers. He would like to see the site updated weekly instead of fortnightly and include a list of the 10 cheapest supermarkets in the 61 regions.

The calls come amid claims that interest in the site has waned dramatically, with reports that the number of visits to the site each month has dropped from 3.3 million in the first month (August) to just 104,000 last month.

“Two or three months ago it was having something like three-million hits a month. It is now down 97 per cent to just over 100,000 hits. Clearly it isn’t providing useful information to consumers,” Mr Xenophon told ABC radio yesterday morning. “I will be pushing for a motion in the Senate to call on the Government to ensure that Grocery Choice is updated on a weekly basis. That it actually lists the top 10 supermarkets in each region each week and giving meaningful information to consumers so they can actually make a real choice.”

“And if you can’t fix it, it should be scrapped because it is a waste of taxpayers’ money in its current form,” Mr Xenophon suggested.

Assistant Treasurer, Chris Bowen reported that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which operates the website, will be adding extra features to the website in coming months in-line with their suggestion upon launch that it would be updated over time. “The more information consumers can get, the better,” he noted. “There is of course restriction on the ACCC as the regulator as to whether they can advertise specials etc. There are some issues there that we have been working through.”

“We want to get more information on,” he added. “Part of that would involve more information about the particular cheapest supermarkets providing you can meet that test which is that you don’t provide the opportunity for particular supermarkets to cross-subsidise. To say, well in this region and we will have the cheapest goods but we will put prices up elsewhere because if you advertise what goods, then you have that issue.”