Consumers want improvements to online grocery selling sites

Online food and grocery sellers in Australia should make it much easier for shoppers to compare the value of items on their websites, says CFA member Queensland Consumers Association.

QCA spokesperson, Ian Jarratt, says online grocery sellers can best do this by providing the unit price (price per unit of measure) of products and by providing effective search and sort functions on their websites.

When shopping for groceries on line, shoppers have a huge choice of products so it is really important that they can make well-informed decisions about value quickly and easily.

However, at present it can be difficult or impossible to use unit pricing to compare values at on line selling sites because:

  • some do not provide unit prices
  • the quality of current provision can be improved
  • product search facilities are often insufficiently precise
  • only some allow sorting by  unit price
  • none provide information to help consumers, especially about the search or sort functions.

It is much more difficult for shoppers to use unit pricing on grocery websites than in physical stores where most items of a product type are normally located very close to each other, and if the unit prices are very prominent and legible, shoppers should be able to easily and quickly compare the unit prices provided on shelf labels and other instore signs.

Therefore, consumers say all on line websites should provide unit pricing that meets the requirements of the Grocery Unit Pricing Code administered by the ACCC which requires unit prices to be provided at some online selling sites, and some bricks and mortar stores, and that they be prominent and legible, provided consistently across and within product categories, provided for special offers as well as regular prices, shown in terms of specific and consistent units of measure, and be accurate. (Voluntary providers must also comply with these requirements.)

However, online grocery sites should also allow shoppers to quickly and accurately search for, and find, all items of a relevant product, and to sort items by unit price.

Without such search and sort facilities it is extremely difficult for online shoppers to use unit prices to compare values.

These needed improvements to online grocery websites are very relevant to the theme of this year’s World Consumer Rights Day on Tuesday 15 March “Building A Digital World Consumers Can Trust” which includes improving the quality of services and providing clear, accessible information.

The International Standards Organisation (ISO) has recognised the need for more and better provision of unit pricing and is developing a Guidance Standard for Unit Pricing.

Ian represents Consumers International – The Global Voice of Consumers – on the ISO’s Committee and the Consumers Federation of Australia on an associated Standards Australia Committee.

He is emphasising to both Committees the need for internet selling to be included in the ISO Standard and has prepared draft principles for best practice provision of unit pricing on internet selling sites for consideration by both Committees.

Notes for editors

  1. The Queensland Consumers Association QCA lead the national campaign which in 20019 resulted in large supermarkets and certain online grocery retailers being required, by a Federal Code administered by the ACCC, to provide the unit price (price per unit of measure) of products sold in constant measure packages.  Voluntary providers must also comply with the Code.
  2. Unit prices already were being, and still are, provided for products sold in packages of random measure and were widely used or mandatory for products sold loose from bulk.
  3. Unit prices can greatly help shoppers to quickly and easily compare the value of different package sizes, different brands, packaged and unpackaged products, different types of packaging, special offers and regular prices, etc.
  4. Unit prices vary greatly so many shoppers use unit prices to save money or get better value for money at bricks and mortar grocery stores.

However, as Roy Morgan Research recently noted that

“One of the great things about online shopping in general is its convenience, but when it comes to groceries, this isn’t necessarily the case. What with all the scrolling, searching for products by key words rather than spotting them on the shelves, being organised enough so you know exactly what you want rather than grabbing items as you see them, it can be quite a challenge!”[1] 

  1. Consumers consider that there is a great scope and need to improve the current grocery unit pricing system that applies to stores and online selling sites and to exted it to other retailers such as chemists, pet product retailers, and hardware stores.
  2. Information about World Consumer Rights Day 2017 is available at:

http://www.consumersinternational.org/our-work/wcrd/wcrd-2017/

[1] Roy Morgan Media Release  Australians yet to embrace online grocery shopping  December 06 2016  Finding No. 7076: