One year on with unit pricing – more work needed

Posted by Josette Dunn on 1st December 2010

CHOICE toasts the first birthday and success of unit pricing in supermarkets but says the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) should come down harder on those who fail to comply with the pricing law.Unit pricing means that shelf labels and advertisements have to show the cost per unit of weight or volume (typically per kilogram or litre) as well as the ticketed price. It allows easy comparison of price regardless of brand or package size.

An ACCC survey released today shows that while major supermarkets followed most provisions of the unit price code, more than a third of online grocers and many small and independent supermarkets failed to comply properly.

CHOICE is calling for the ACCC to be given the power to slap ‘infringement notices’ on those retailers who do not comply with the law and proceed with court action for repeat offenders.

“Unit pricing is a good example of what can happen when industry gets behind and implements sensible reform but there continues to be some problems with the way it is enforced,” says CHOICE Spokesperson, Christopher Zinn.

“Online compliance levels are pretty concerning and given the popularity of online shopping the ACCC clearly has work to do in this area.”

CHOICE, which first called for unit pricing 50 years ago, wants the ACCC and supermarkets to be more proactive with helping the public engage with the system to help save them money with groceries.

The consumer group also believes the regulations should be fine tuned to ensure the term “prominent disclosure” is accurately defined.

CHOICE also wants to see the ACCC correct some of the problems with the display of inconsistent units for similar products such as cheese being priced both in kilograms and 100 gram divisions.