The ACCC will conduct a year-long inquiry into the Australian supermarket sector, including an investigation of pricing practices.
The inquiry will be the first since the consumer watchdog’s last inquiry in 2008 and will also examine competition in the sector as well as the relationship between wholesale, including farmgate, and retail prices.
Gina Cass-Gottlieb, Chair of the ACCC, said they know grocery prices have become a major concern for the millions of Australians experiencing cost-of-living pressures.
“We will use our full range of legal powers to conduct a detailed examination of the supermarket sector, and where we identify problems or opportunities for improvement, we will carefully consider what recommendations we can make to Government.”
Following the ACCC’s 2008 inquiry, Coles and Woolworths provided enforceable undertakings to the ACCC to remove restrictive tenancy provisions that may have prevented shopping centres from leasing space to competing supermarkets.
Mick Keogh, Deputy Chair at the ACCC, said competitive markets encourage more attractive combinations of price and quality for consumers, as well as greater choice.
“Our inquiry will examine the nature of the current competitive environment between supermarkets as well as the barriers to greater competition and new entry in the sector.
“We believe we are well placed to conduct this broad-ranging inquiry and will bring to bear our expertise in competition, consumer law, agriculture and the supermarket sector in particular.”
Brad Banducci, CEO of Woolworths Group, said they welcome the opportunity to assist the ACC with its inquiry.
“We know many Australian families are doing it tough and looking for relief at the checkout.
“Food inflation has continued to moderate in recent months and we expect this to continue throughout 2024.”
The ACCC’s inquiry into the supermarket sector is separate from the Government’s recently announced review of the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct, which relates to the conduct of retailers and wholesalers towards suppliers.
The watchdog expects to publish an issues paper in February seeking views on the key issues it will consider in this inquiry. An interim report will be provided to the Australian Government later this year, and the final report is due to be provided early next year.