Consumers group responds to international developments on confusing and opaque grocery pricing

The Queensland Consumers Association (QCA) has welcomed two recent overseas events that could significantly influence the quality of the grocery pricing information provided in Australia and other countries.
First, the UK consumer organisation Which? has made a super-complaint about supermarket pricing tactics to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
The super complaint covers:
  • confusing and misleading special offers that make extensive use of price framing including reference pricing, volume offers and free offers
  • a lack of easily comparable prices because of the limitations of unit pricing (price per unit of measure)
  • reductions in pack sizes without any corresponding price change.
Details are available here:
And the CMA’s website is here:
Second, the USAs National Institute of Standards and Technology (part of the Commerce Dept) has published a Unit Pricing Guide  -“A Best Practice Approach to Unit Pricing”
The recommendations include that the minimum print size for unit pricing on shelf labels be the greater of 6mm or 50% of the height of the selling price, to ensure adequate prominence and legibility for consumers.
This standard is not achieved by supermarkets in Australia but it is in Sweden and some US states where minimum print sizes for unit prices are specified in legislation or industry agreements.  Australia’s legislation only requires that the unit price be “prominent” and “legible”.
The Guide only covers voluntary in-store provision (not advertisements or the internet), is not a substitute for the legislative provisions of some states, and can be downloaded free here:
QCA’s, Ian Jarratt, has studied unit pricing in many countries, including the UK and the USA, and helped increase awareness there of deficiencies in much of the unit pricing provided.
He says the outcomes of the UK super-complaint will be particularly relevant to Australia because it covers a range of grocery pricing practices, not just unit pricing.