Supermarket prices


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In Britain, if you need to know the price of something, it's easy. It’s real shopper power and the supermarkets are kept honest.

Canberra thinks it is all too hard. “The current system has failed consumers, it's not giving them the choice they deserve and it's not giving them the price competition they deserve”, said Independent senator Nick Xenaphon.

Senator Xenaphon applauds the British system and wonders why we can't have the same. “Absolutely the market only works if consumers have knowledge and real choice -- right now they have neither”, he added.

John Rolfe doesn't look like someone who can frighten two multi-nationals into action, but after the News Limited journalist put his hand up earlier this week to take on the supermarket giants, our viewers judged him as a 'superman' against the supermarkets. “People clearly want to do something about grocery prices they see as too high”, John said.

And since our Tuesday night show, he now has backing from Canberra. Senator Xenaphon is a big advocate for breaking the stranglehold of the duopoly Coles and Woolworths and is backing John Rolfe's people power campaign -- to compare prices and lift the lid on their profiteering on our wallets. “When you have just two supermarket chains controlling 80% of the grocery market that's not healthy for competition -- certainly not good for consumers and it's bad news for independents wanting to break in to the market”, Senator Xenaphon said.

So to coin an old slogan -- it's a 'keep the bastards honest' campaign. To re-cap, Rolfe wants to run an on-line survey, comparing supermarket prices item-by-item, between the big two. “The grocery vigilantes are coming in from everywhere. People say something has to be done about this and they want to take an active part in finding a solution”, John said.

That the Australian Government had its chance, even tipped in millions but pulled out at the last minute, has left more questions than choice. “When you have two people they have a lot of market power and unless one of them buckles, the other won't. Where as when you have four its easier to get one to play ball and then if one does, the others have to come inside the tent”, said
Christopher Zinn, from Choice Magazine.

Christopher wants us to rally behind a UK system here -- and quickly. “If they're really confident that they've got low prices, then they should put them out there. If they're not, then perhaps they do need to hide them away”, Christopher added.

Here's the thing -- while the Australian Government has walked away from the challenge, in the UK the honesty system is alive and well. The four major food outlets in the UK are all willing to put their prices up for public scrutiny, day after day. It's not even Government run. The UK system makes it look easy and it is ��" everyone, including the supermarkets, are on board.

Here, shoppers have tried and are still trying to do it themselves, like Abel Haslett. “I remember what it was like to have to decide what food I was going to get for that week so we could survive, so I realise that people do struggle out there”, Abel said.

The father of three has a full-time job and at his you can go online and do actual price comparisons. But it's no where in the same league as that in the UK. “I suppose our question would be why on earth can’t we have one of those. I mean why can I go and find out what the price of bananas in Tesco is in Ailsbury and compare that to what the price of baked beans or rump steak is in another store in Scotland and find out what's cheapest? Its a fantastic resource -- what is also fantastic is why can't we have one”, Christopher said.

So, it's up to you -- if you want to keep the bastards honest get on board -- join the blog.

For more information:
John Rolfe's Challenge: