Consumers Want a Fair Go for Supermarket Shoppers Too

The Queensland Consumers Association (QCA) says action is needed to give consumers as well as suppliers a fairer go when dealing with supermarkets.

QCA spokesperson Ian Jarratt says the Federal Government’s decision to change the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct to help farmers and other suppliers in their dealings s with large supermarkets, highlights the need to also help consumers in their dealings with supermarkets.

For example the unit pricing (price per unit of measure – for example $1.41 per 100g for a 765g packet of breakfast cereal costing $10.80) that large supermarkets (and some online grocery retailers) must provide close to the selling price needs to be much more consumer friendly because it can greatly help consumers to compare prices and find the best value for money and it increases competition right along the supply chain.

Ian Jarratt (who was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to study unit pricing overseas) says the unit price of many grocery products sold instore and online is often far too difficult for many shoppers to notice, read, understand, and use.

This is due mainly to inadequate display and the use of inconsistent units of measure, both of which greatly reduces the number of consumers who use unit pricing, the frequency of use and the benefits obtained.

The extent of the problem was clearly shown by a 2022 national online survey by CHOICE which found that 71% of users in grocery stores and 80% of online users experienced difficulties doing so. And, in a 2018 Treasury online survey involving 3775 respondents 74% said they had trouble finding and reading the unit price always/often/sometimes.

Instore shoppers should not have to bend very low, or even get down on their hands and knees, to read the unit prices of products on the lower shelves – which they have to do now in some supermarkets. Value shopping should not, and need not, be that hard.

The grocery unit pricing system needs to be made much more effective by greatly improving retailer compliance with the current mandatory Unit Pricing Code and by making it much more fit for purpose – for example by clarifying what constitutes “prominent” and “legible” and allowing penalties for non-compliance.

Other changes that would benefit consumers in their dealings with supermarkets include improving:

  • The accuracy and clarity of special offers and other promotional pricing
  • The administration of, and information for consumers on, the supermarket’s policy when the price being charged at the checkout is higher than on an instore label.

Notes for editors

  1. QCA led the campaign that in 2009, following a recommendation from the 2008 ACCC supermarket inquiry, resulted, in very large supermarkets and some online grocery retailers having to display the unit price of packaged products.
  2. Effective unit pricing helps consumers to make many types of value comparisons including between: package sizes, brands special offers and regular prices, packaged and unpackaged products, substitute/alternative products, types of packaging, product forms (eg fresh/frozen/canned), and retailers.
  3. Since 2009 QCA and other consumer and community organizations have been calling for improvements to the quality of the unit pricing provided by grocery retailers.
  4. An independent review of the unit pricing legislation that should have occurred 5 years after 2009 was never undertaken.
  5. Despite consumers, industry and the ACCC recommending changes to the unit pricing legislation, none were made after a 2018 Treasury review.

Above is a media released by the Queensland Consumers Association (QCA) on 25/06/2024. The article was written by Ian Jarratt OAM. QCA is a valued member of the Consumers’ Federation of Australia (CFA). Ian Jarratt volunteers for QCA and is member of the CFA executive committee.

Media contact: For further information contact Ian Jarratt OAM at or phone 0448012482