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New research shows consumers worried about new online pricing practices

Data also shows one in ten using Buy Now Pay Later products for basic expenses.

CHOICE has released the results of its regular "Consumer Pulse" survey – a nationally representative survey of Australian consumers. 

"The consumer pulse survey has been running since December 2014 and allows us to understand how people are experiencing common consumer markets, as well as emerging issues like algorithm-driven online prices and the Buy Now Pay Later sector," says CHOICE's Editorial Director Marg Rafferty.

Australians want fair and transparent pricing – consumer views on differential pricing

"On the back of our investigation into Tinder's discriminatory pricing practices, we asked people what they thought about companies charging different prices to different groups of customers (also known as differential pricing)."

- Only 1 in 4 Australians (26%) are aware they may be charged different prices compared to other people when shopping online. 

- 69% do not think differential pricing is a fair practice. 1 in 5 (18%) think differential pricing is only fair if the company is transparent about what they are doing.

- 78% of people think there should be rules or laws in place to limit differential pricing. 

- Australians are concerned about personal information on social media (61%), income level (61%), browsing habits (60%) and where they live (57%) being used to set different prices. 

"Companies are already charging people different prices based on who they are but few companies are clear with customers about when or how this happens. Recently, CHOICE found that dating app Tinder charged some people up to five times as much as another to sign up for its paid service, Tinder Plus." 

"Our research tells us that some company pricing practices are out of step with consumer expectations. Most people don't think differential pricing is fair and, at minimum, people expect transparency about how prices are set."

New data shows Buy Now Pay Later being used to cover essential costs

- 12% of people have used a BNPL service in recent months to cover a cash shortfall until payday – more than have used a credit card (9%) to bridge the gap. 

"These findings fly in the face of the Buy Now Pay Later sector's claim that the platforms are for discretionary purchases," says Rafferty. 

"The BNPL sector does not have to comply with some basic consumer protections, like the requirement to lend responsibly. These results show why it's so important that the rule of law applies evenly to all credit products. One in ten people are using BNPL for the essentials, bridging a gap in their spending till payday – these people deserve consumer protections when they borrow." 

Media contact: 0430 172 669, media@choice.com.au

Editor's notes:

The CHOICE Consumer Pulse is a quarterly, nationally representative survey tracking financial pressures on Australian households, from the cost of groceries and petrol to concern over increasing insurance premiums and high energy bills. It helps put real figures to the problems we hear about from our members every day – because the ultimate test of our economic system should be whether it is delivering for Australian consumers.

This survey was the 26th in the Consumer Pulse series and was in the field from 7th-30th September 2020. The survey was designed and analysed by CHOICE with fieldwork conducted by ISO accredited research organisation The ORU. The number of responses was 1,112 - data has been weighted to ensure it is representative of the Australian population based on the 2016 ABS census data based on age, state, gender, household income and education levels.