Questions linger about revamped GROCERYchoice site

Posted by Editorial on 27th April 2009

Consumer group Choice is still planning on a July 1 launch for the revamped GROCERYchoice website despite facing resistance from some retailers who are not keen to provide lists on a weekly basis.

Choice recently announced that consultancy firm SMS Management & Technology would help the consumer group with the $13 million task of rebuilding the troubled Grocery Choice website.

Currently, the site focusses on 61 broad regions, with prices updated on a monthly basis. This has been criticised as irrelevant to the average consumer and, consequently, Choice is seeking to offer pricing information on a wide range of products from a few thousand supermarkets every week. However, supermarkets are concerned about the cost of providing the information.

“What we want is price transparency and more transparency over price delivers consumer benefit,” Choice spokesman Christopher Zinn said, according to News Limited publications. “It’s going to be quite a change and it does have the ability to shift the market in some ways, so there is a level of apprehension by some supermarkets.”

The updated website would allow customers to enter a shopping list and postcode to compare exact store and product prices before buying. It is linked to Google maps to provide an overview of expected cost by location.

Shadow Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs, Luke Hartsuyker, has outlined the Opposition’s lack of support for the site, suggesting it should be shut down.
“It is now becoming clear that supermarkets across the country do not intend to provide that specific price information,” Mr Hartsuyker said on Thursday. “Yesterday the National Association of Retail Grocers said it was too difficult and too costly for supermarkets to collate such information. NARGA represents more 4,500 members, including IGA supermarkets.”

“There are also serious doubts that Woolworths and Coles intend to provide the price lists to Choice.”The National Association of Retail Grocers of Australia believes the cost of providing the information is unreasonable for their members.

“Choice are getting $13 million from the Government to do it, so it is coming at no cost to them,” Chairman John Cummings said. “Does the Government want to pay the independent sector $13 million for us to do it?”

Mr Zinn said that the consumer group was still ironing out the details with some supermarkets but already had “a number … signed on”.