The ACCC will lead its first inquiry into competition, pricing, and wholesale relationships in the supermarket sector since 2008.
The Australian government has announced that it will direct the ACCC to conduct an inquiry into Australia’s supermarket sector. The year-long inquiry will examine competition in the supermarket sector and how it has changed since the ACCC’s last inquiry nearly 15 years ago back in 2008.
It will also investigate the pricing practices of the supermarkets and the relationship between wholesale, including farmgate, and retail prices.
“We know grocery prices have become a major concern for the millions of Australians experiencing cost of living pressures,” ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said.
“When it comes to fresh produce, we understand that many farmers are concerned about weak correlation between the price they receive for their produce and the price consumers pay at the checkout.”
“We will use our full range of legal powers to conduct a detailed examination of the supermarket sector, and where we identify problems or opportunities for improvement, we will carefully consider what recommendations we can make to Government,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.
In a speech to the National Press Club on Thursday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced the inquiry. “The ACCC has significant powers and it is the best and most effective body to investigate supermarket prices,” he said.
“To look at how things like online shopping, loyalty programs and changes in technology are impacting competition in the industry, and to examine the difference between the price paid at the farm gate and the prices people pay at the checkout. For me, it’s this simple. When farmers are selling their product for less, supermarkets should charge Australians less.”
The ACCC expects to publish an issues paper in February seeking views on the key issues it will consider in this inquiry. An interim report will be provided to the Australian Government later this year, and the final report is due to be provided early next year.
“Competitive markets encourage more attractive combinations of price and quality for consumers, as well as greater choice,” ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh said.
“Our inquiry will examine the nature of the current competitive environment between supermarkets, as well as the barriers to greater competition and new entry in the sector. We believe we are well placed to conduct this broad-ranging inquiry and will bring to bear our expertise in competition, consumer law, agriculture and the supermarket sector in particular,” Mr Keogh said.
Albanese also announced that it would be funding consumer group CHOICE with $1.1 million to educate and inform consumers on the pricing discrepancies these supermarkets are creating.
“Because across thousands of products it can be hard for people to find the best deal. We are backing Choice – renowned for their commitment to consumer fairness – to provide clear and regular information on prices across a basket of goods,” said Albanese. “This will promote transparency, enhance competition and drive value.”