Coles, Woolies to face ‘price gouging’ inquiry

Supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths will face a parliamentary committee into price gouging and record profits amid the cost-of-living crisis.

Dec 07, 2023, updated Dec 07, 2023
Photo: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

Photo: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

The Senate on Wednesday confirmed the inquiry into the impact of market concentration on food and grocery prices and the strategies retailers employ will go ahead next year.

“This inquiry represents a critical opportunity to reassess the balance of power in the grocery sector and propose reforms that will drive down food and grocery prices,” Greens Senator and inquiry chair Nick McKim said.

“Our objective is to break their overpowering influence and bring down grocery prices for all Australians.”

Coles and Woolworths confirmed representatives would appear and give evidence if called to do so.

Coles chief executive Leah Weckert said the company was working to reduce cost-of-living pressures for Australian families and it would engage with the committee to explain the factors that influence supermarket pricing.

“Coles’ total supermarkets’ price inflation declined to 3.1 per cent for the July-September quarter,” she said in a statement.

“Fresh food, including fresh produce, meat, deli and seafood, experienced deflation of 2.3 per cent during the July-September quarter.”

Woolworths Group chief executive Brad Banducci echoed Ms Weckert’s comments, saying the company would explain to the senators that there was economy-wide inflationary pressure and customers and suppliers had competing needs.

“As we have done at several inquiries this year, we will openly and constructively assist the parliament with its work on this important topic,” he said.

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Agriculture Minister Murray Watt on Monday said it was time for supermarkets “to do their part” after recently recording massive profits.

The inquiry will also scrutinise rising supermarket profits and the large increase in price of essential items and the prevalence of opportunistic pricing and discounts that are not discounts.

It will also investigate if the regulatory framework governing supermarket pricing should be bolstered to ensure lower prices for food and groceries.

A final report will be tabled in May 2024.


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