Call to political parties for widespread unit pricing

To help consumers with cost of living pressures, the Queensland Consumers Association (QCA), supported by CFA, CHOICE and the Consumer Action Law Centre, has asked political parties for the forthcoming federal election to agree to an investigation within one year into expanding and improving the provision by retailers of unit price (price per unit of measure) information.

QCA spokesperson Ian Jarratt said large supermarkets have been required to provide unit price information on shelf labels, etc for pre-packed products since December 2009.

This has helped millions of shoppers to save money and time by helping them to compare the value of different pack sizes, brands, products, type of packaging, and packaged/non packaged items.

But, QCA also says consumers could get even more benefits if unit pricing was provided by other types of retailers, for example chemists (for non-prescription products) and hardware shops (for paint and other items).

Throughout the European Union, these types of retailers, unless very small, are required to provide unit pricing, and it is also provided by chemists in some parts of the USA.

However, QCA says that to be effective the unit prices provided by any retailer have to be easy for consumers to notice, read and use and that substantial problems with existing grocery unit pricing are reducing its value to consumers.

The main problems are that many unit prices are insufficiently prominent and/or legible; unit prices are not provided for some products, brands, sizes, etc; and that units of measure are often inconsistent – for example use of per 100g and per kg within the same product class.

QCA has evidence of significant problems with unit pricing at supermarkets in Queensland, NSW, Victoria, and South Australia and says it is a national problem.

The causes include many grocery retailers failing to provide consumers with high quality, easy to use unit pricing; insufficient monitoring and enforcement by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) of compliance with the Unit Pricing Code; and Code deficiencies.

Consumer friendly unit pricing can help savvy shoppers knock hundreds of dollars off annual grocery bills.

QCA estimates that inadequate provision of grocery unit pricing, and insufficient consumer education, reduce the benefits of grocery unit pricing to consumers by at least $250 million per annum.

Examples of savings possible by using unit prices.


Percent saving* by buying the lowest unit price

Supermarket unit prices

Green beans fresh 44% saving Loose – $5.98 per kg vs. 375g pack -$10.61 per kg
Corn flakes 31% saving Brand A 800g pack – 38c per 100g vs. Brand B 725g pack – 55c per 100g
White sugar – 2kg bag 44% saving Brand C – 10c per 100g vs. Brand D – 18c per 100g
Tasty Cheddar Cheese Brand E 83% saving 1 kg block – $6.70 per kg vs. 100g pack of mini cubes – $40 per kg
Mushrooms fresh 50% saving Loose – $5.98 per kg vs. 200g pack sliced – $19.90 per kg
Paracetamol tablets – pack of 24 79% saving Brand F – 3c per tablet vs. Brand G – 14c per tablet
Antacid liquid Brand H 24% saving 500mL – $1.89 per 100mL vs. 200mL – $2.50 per 100mL

* Saving on the unit price.

Ian Jarratt
Queensland Consumers Association