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Supermarket power under scrutiny: consumers, farmers and SMEs urged to share views

Australian consumers are asked to share information about how they shop and what they experience through an online survey published today as part of the ACCC’s supermarkets inquiry.

The ACCC has also today published an issues paper outlining the topics the supermarkets inquiry will explore, and is calling for submissions from farmers, wholesalers, retailers, and other interested parties.

“We know that consumers and suppliers alike have a range of concerns about Australia’s major supermarkets, and this is their chance to have their say,” ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh said.

“We will be using our legal powers to compulsorily obtain data and documents from the supermarkets themselves, but consultation with consumers and grocery sector participants is an important first step in our inquiry.”

Survey of supermarket customers

The ACCC invites consumers to complete the online survey to improve its understanding of where and how Australians buy groceries, and how price changes, loyalty programs and other factors influence how they shop.

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Consumers are also invited to include information about any grocery shopping experiences they believed were confusing or misleading, such as “was/now” pricing or so-called “shrinkflation”, when a product is sold at a smaller size or volume for the same or a higher price.

Consumers can complete the online survey at Supermarkets inquiry consumer survey until 2 April 2024.

Issues paper and stakeholder submissions

The ACCC is also seeking submissions from industry participants involved in grocery supply chains, in response to matters raised in the issues paper.

The issues paper is divided into two sections: competition for consumer retail spending between the supermarkets, and grocery supply chains.

At the retail level, the ACCC will examine competition between supermarkets and the barriers that new or emerging supermarkets face when trying to enter or expand.

The ACCC is also interested in how retail competition differs across Australia, particularly in regional and remote areas.

“One of our major focus areas will be the supermarkets’ approach to setting prices, and whether there is evidence to show that a lack of effective retail competition is contributing to higher prices,” Mr Keogh said.

“We will conduct a detailed comparison of the price suppliers receive for their goods and the price consumers pay at the checkout, and the profits the supermarkets earn.”

“In addition, we will be looking at other issues such as loyalty schemes, discounting practices, the shift to online shopping and the impact of home-brand products,” Mr Keogh said.

In relation to grocery supply chains, the ACCC wants to hear from industry participants about competition within supply chains, trading arrangements, margins and price transparency, and if supermarket buyer power is impacting suppliers’ commercial viability.

“A lack of competition at any stage of a supply chain can result in inefficient or unsustainable prices across the supply chain,” Mr Keogh said.

Grocery supply chain participants and other interested parties are invited to make submissions in response to the issues paper via a guided submissions process on the ACCC’s consultation hub until 2 April 2024.

Parties can claim confidentiality over all or some of their submission, including their identity, if they believe the information being shared publicly could damage their business.

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