I have made no secret of my views on the state of the supermarket sector in Australia over the past year. And talking to consumers, farmers, independent grocers and others about the problem has only strengthened our resolve here at CHOICE to do something about it.
They confirm that all of us who shop at supermarkets are not alone in paying a high price for the duopoly in groceries in Australia. We pay some of the highest prices in the developed world and have little option but to shop at Coles or Woolies, regardless of price, quality or choice. Believe it or not, more than 70% of all packaged groceries is sold by one of these two supermarkets.
And consumers also feel a sense of solidarity with farmers who are squeezed at one end and independents struggling to make a living at the other.
What is clear above all else is that consumers have had enough and want to see change. Which is why we're launching a campaign to put the 'super' back into supermarket and, through our new Checkoutchoice website, are asking you to join us in taking action to get fairness across the sector as a whole.
The big two will say they do compete on prices but we believe while they match prices for known value items like bread, milk and eggs, their prices are not always as low as they suggest. As they seek to expand their reach, they have also treated some farmers, some suppliers and some communities with tactics we believe are deserving of more scrutiny.
The federal government has taken some steps to improve competition, such as removing some but not all anti-competitive practices and provisions in areas such as planning and leases. But we don't think they always go far enough.
One of the most frequent questions I get asked by people is 'what can I do, particularly when my only choice is to shop at one of the big two? '
Checkoutchoice provides some answers to that question. To begin with we're focusing on transparent prices, loyalty schemes and private labels. We're also calling for a supermarket industry ombudsman to tackle concerns raised by consumers, farmers, suppliers and independent retailers.
The site is focused around what you can do to make a difference and collectively, many small actions will help to bring about much needed change in this sector.
We also want Checkoutchoice to be the forum for a national conversation about supermarkets, ranging from the big ticket issues such as what kind of grocery stores we want, to more local concerns about the big two expanding into smaller towns.
This site is for consumers, farmers, independents and everyone who feels the way we do about the need for more competition and a fairer market for groceries.
Fair rules, fair play and a fair deal for all. That's what we're calling for. If you agree, please visit www.checkoutchoice.com.au
and take action with us.