The consumer watchdog has been formally directed to investigate the supermarket sector, amid concerns Australians are being ripped off at the checkout and the farmgate.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers directed the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to investigate the competitiveness of retail prices and allegations of price gouging in the supermarket sector, in the first inquiry of its kind since 2008.
The ACCC will consider how the industry is structured at the supply, wholesale, and retail levels, the competitiveness of small and independent retailers, especially in regional and remote areas, the pricing practices of supermarkets and the factors along the supply chain that influence prices, and any impediments to competitive pricing.
It follows accusations from farmers that supermarkets are charging well above the prices paid for their goods.
Cabinet minister Anika Wells said there was a real need for a “good look under the bonnet about what’s going on”.
“It’s going to have to be a thorough investigation because we want to solve it, don’t we? We want to fix this, and we want to make sure that Aussies are getting a fair check at the checkout.”
Dr Chalmers said the government wanted “a fair go” for families and farmers.
“Australians are under cost-of-living pressure, and we know that a lot of that pressure is piled on at the cash register,” he said.
“This is about making our supermarkets as competitive as they can be so Australians get the best prices possible.”
The announcement came weeks after the Albanese government directed former Labor minister Craig Emerson to lead a review into the food and grocery code of conduct, which is currently voluntary.
Assistant Competition Minister Andrew Leigh said the culmination of the ACCC inquiry and Dr Emerson’s review would ensure Australians got a fair deal.
“In a highly concentrated market like Australia’s grocery sector the risk of price gouging is high and that’s especially true when the rising cost-of-living is hurting so many Australians,” he said.