CHOICE calls for unit pricing review

22 November 2016 | We believe unit pricing should and can be better.

Unit pricing saves consumers money

Unit pricing has been mandatory for large supermarkets since 2009. We know it makes a difference – Queensland University of Technology found that consumers can save $1000–$1700 over a year when using unit pricing.

The savings that consumers can make, and the added clarity that unit prices give them, is significant. So why aren't unit pricing labels more legible? Or found on shelves beyond supermarkets?

Sign up to our campaign to stay up to date with CHOICE's efforts to improve transparency of price in Australian markets.

"Two for $10! Buy three, get one free! Prices are down, down!" Supermarkets use tactics that scream for our attention in stores. From brightly coloured tickets to confusing multi-buy deals, there are lots of tactics you need to navigate that are designed to get you to spend more on your groceries.

There's one way to bypass this supermarket pricing confusion: use unit pricing, which helps you compare products on weight and price. 

What CHOICE wants

CHOICE is calling for:

  • unit pricing to be broadened to other store types beyond supermarkets, like pharmacies or hardware stores
  • greater enforcement of the current unit pricing scheme
  • a review of the enforcement and scope of the unit pricing scheme.

Although there was a review of the implementation of the unit pricing scheme in 2012 (download the report below), by its own estimation it wasn't thorough enough to review the whole scheme. It neither dealt with how the scheme would be enforced, nor how effective its enforcement would be. 

Unit pricing was introduced in 2009. It's long overdue for review. The federal government is dragging its feet and may not review the scheme until 2018. We believe that action is needed sooner to deliver fair and clear pricing across markets where it matters. 

By signing up to our campaign you'll stay up to date on CHOICE's efforts to improve transparency of price in Australian markets.

What is unit pricing?

Unit pricing is the description of the price of products sold at a set measurement. For example, a five kilogram pack of flour sold for $4.50 has a unit price of 90 cents/kilogram. When similar products are sold by different weights, unit pricing can help shoppers work out the product of best value.

Unit pricing can be hugely beneficial to consumers from both a cost perspective and by cutting through the marketing spin of manufacturers and supermarkets.

International experiences

  • The United States introduced unit pricing in the 1970s, despite strong opposition from retailers.
  • The Scandinavians led the charge for unit pricing in the European Union. They achieved unit pricing in every market place.
  • Across the pacific (Japan, Australia, New Zealand) unit pricing schemes are in place, but in some instances the schemes are voluntary and they're often poorly enforced. It means you won't always see clear and accurate unit prices across the supermarket. 

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