ACCC Wants People To Spill The Dirt On Coles & Woolies To See How Much We’re Being Ripped Off

Customers and suppliers have been invited to spill the dirt on supermarkets, with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) seeking inquiries from the public as it announces the first step in its inquiry.

The consumer watchdog released an online survey for customers to fill out, to help determine if the industry is hiking prices and stifling competition. It’s also looking for submissions from people involved in grocery supply chains who might have some insider knowledge on how supermarkets like Coles and Woolies compete for customers.

It is also looking for responses from customers, as it seeks to understand how the public use the stores and how they spend their money.

The ACCC wants to understand the spending habits of consumers at supermarkets. Image: Getty.

ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh said the inquiry will work by examining issues such as loyalty schemes, discounting practices, the shift to online shopping and the impact of home-brand products.

“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,” he 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.”

He said the ACCC would be using legal powers to obtain data and documents from the supermarkets themselves, but wanted to hear from anyone involved outside the stores as well.

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

The inquiry into allegations of supermarket price-gouging were first announced by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in January, following months of mounting pressure to address spiralling grocery costs.

At the time, he said the government was concerned over claims of price gouging, with farmers, consumers and politicians all making allegations of unfair practices.

“For me it’s this simple: when farmers are selling their products for less, supermarkets should be charging Australians at the checkout less,” Albanese said at the time.

Others in the business sector have welcomed the first step, with Business Council of Co-operatives CEO Melina Morrison saying it was an opportunity to reinvent the industry.

With the ACCC inquiry underway there is no better time than now to rethink how consumers and producers can get the best outcomes from the supermarket sector. We welcome the ACCC’s wider lens on supply chains as well as pricing,” she said.

“Supermarket competition is not just about lower prices for Australians and fairer relationships with suppliers. It’s about national security.

“With such high concentration in ownership, supermarkets can have an influence on the shape of domestic food production.

She said that if it is found supermarkets ownership is too concentrated, a co-op style system could be presented as a possible solution. They claim that co-ops, which are popular in Europe, divide profits more equally while adding community-led competition to the industry.

Responses to the ACCC submission survey are open until April 2nd, and interim report is expected to be submitted by August.