Consumers SA’s sister organisation, the Queensland Consumers Association, is calling on the federal government to release its plans for the soon-to-expire regulation that requires large supermarkets to provide the unit price for prepackaged grocery products.

 On 1 October 2019, unless the present regulation is continued, or new legislation is in place, grocery retailers will no longer be required to provide unit pricing 

 The unit price is the price per unit of measure (such as per 100g for breakfast cereals or per litre for milk). 

 It can greatly assist shoppers to make informed choices, get the best value for money, help with cost/standard of living pressures, and save time.

 Queensland Association spokesperson, Ian Jarratt - who led the campaign for compulsory grocery unit pricing - says “Unit pricing is a simple, but extremely powerful tool that, if provided well, can be the consumer’s best friend in the supermarket”.

 Ian says “It essential to have after 1 October a regulation that requires grocery retailers to provide unit pricing, otherwise fewer retailers will provide it and the quality of provision will be even worse than it is now.”

 The regulation needs also to:

  • require the provision of unit pricing by moregrocery retailers and other relevant retailers, such as chemists and hardware stores

  • result in allunit prices being easy for consumers to notice, read, understand, and use.

 A recent Choice survey showed that 64% of consumers using grocery unit pricing had issues with how it is displayed and provided.

 A major problem is the use of small and non-bold print which results in far too many unit prices being very difficult to notice and read, even for shoppers with good eyesight.  

 This also discriminates against the many consumers with impaired vision and those with disabilities that prevent or limit them from bending and stretching to be able to read small print unit prices on lower and upper shelves. 

 Other common problems that must be addressed include non and intermittent provision, the use of incorrect or inconsistent units of measure, and inaccurate unit prices.

Grocery retailers ensure that selling prices are provided, are very prominent and legible, and are accurate and say they are customer focused and want to provide customers with value and convenience. 

Therefore, they should be required to do the same with unit prices by making them very easy for consumers to notice, read, understand and use.

Recent research by the Association shows that unit prices often vary greatly between brands and pack sizes and that there is great potential for consumers to use unit pricing to get better value.

For a basket of packaged products, choosing a low unit price brand of similar pack size resulted in overall savings of around 50% whilst choosing the larger pack size of a brand delivered overall savings of over 20%.

The savings that individual consumers can obtain from taking unit prices into account will vary greatly depending on what they buy now buy and where.

However, consumers spend around $100 billion a year on groceries alone and many households spend a substantial proportion of total income on groceries.  So, it would be very beneficial for consumers if:

  • the quality of provision of grocery unit pricing was greatly improved and more grocery retailers were required to provide it, and

  • other types of retailers, such as chemists and hardware stores, also had to provide unit pricing for packaged products.

AuthorRay Dennis