Glass half full as milk inquiry signals more reviews

Big two supermarkets are still the big issue

CHOICE says the release of the final Senate Committee report into cheap milk underscores the growing dominance of Australia’s big two supermarkets.

After almost nine months of hearings and two interim reports, the Committee yesterday called for more reviews and studies, including consultation on the need for a supermarket ombudsman-type office, a move which CHOICE supports.

“CHOICE welcomes the Committee’s recommendation to look more closely at a ‘statutory office’ such as a supermarket ombudsman, but we think this has to promote greater competition to benefit consumers, not just settle arguments between industry players,” says Matt Levey, CHOICE head of campaigns.

CHOICE has also welcomed the Committee’s recommendation for the ACCC to take a more public approach to some of its activities, but says the issues facing consumers are about much more than cheap milk.

“Earlier this year, we saw lots of claims and counter-claims about the so-called milk ‘price-war’, but a lack of facts about who was actually picking up the cost. There’s clearly a role for the national regulator to enter some of these debates earlier and bring clarity for consumers,” Mr Levey says.

“It’s obvious that cheap milk, and for that matter competitive pricing on any consumer good is a great thing for consumers.

“But the big issue here is what happens when Australia’s two big supermarkets throw their weight around and get even bigger at the expense of smaller, independent operators – and that’s what we continue to see.

“We don’t need another inquiry every time a staple food product is the subject of a marketing campaign.

“We do need increased scrutiny of what’s happening as our highly concentrated supermarket sector gets even more concentrated and integrated, with potential impacts for product choice, future affordability and diversity of retailers,” Mr Levey said.

Media contact: Matt Levey, CHOICE head of campaigns – 0488 214 066

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