Australia launches competition, pricing review in supermarket sector

Australia launches competition, pricing review in supermarket sector

Shoppers browse a plastic bag-free Woolworths supermarket in Sydney, Australia, June 15, 2018. REUTERS/Jill Gralow/File photo

SYDNEY  – Australia on Thursday launched a wide-ranging review into pricing and competition in its supermarket sector as the government unveils a series of policies to improve household finances and boost its flagging popularity.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will be tasked with the 12-month inquiry, the first since 2008, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said in a joint ministerial statement on Thursday.

The ACCC will examine how competition in the sector has changed since the last review in 2008, how prices are set across the supply chain, in particular between farms and supermarkets, and “impediments” to competitive pricing, the release said.

“My government is prepared to take action to make sure that Australians are not paying one dollar more than they should for the things they need,” Albanese said in the statement.

The warning shot to the supermarket industry, dominated by two players, Coles and Woolworths, is the latest in a series of measures to financially support families at a time when the center-left Labor government is struggling in the polls.

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Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci said in a statement the company would assist the ACCC in its inquiry and expected food inflation to moderate through 2024.

Coles said in a statement it would work closely with the ACCC and was working hard to keep groceries affordable for Australians.

Albanese on Thursday also announced changes to a series of planned tax cuts that trimmed benefits for the wealthy and redirected greater savings to low- and middle-income households.

The supermarket competition review comes just weeks after the government appointed former minister Dr Craig Emerson to review a voluntary supermarket industry code of conduct with an eye to determining if it should become mandatory.

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