ACTU price gouging report to put supermarkets, health care and airlines under microscope

A union-led price gouging inquiry will put several industries – ranging from airlines to child care – under the spotlight when it releases its report on Wednesday afternoon.

The report, commissioned by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), will hand down a wide range of recommendations after receiving over 750 public submissions and more than 20 contributions from academics, experts, unions, businesses and politicians.

Launched in August and led by Allan Fels, the inaugural chairman of the ACCC, the inquiry’s final report will be released about 1pm.

Public hearings

Fels has already set the tone for the release after writing to federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers in January, telling him the ACCC should launch an inquiry into prices set by supermarkets.

“There should be a comprehensive ACCC inquiry into competition and prices in the retail food and grocery industry,” he said in the letter.

“When those at the top of the supply chain experience an upward price shock, they raise the prices like rockets; when the reverse occurs, they fall like feathers.”

Unreasonably high pricing – or price gouging – isn’t illegal under Australian competition laws, but there has been an increase in scrutiny over pricing rising faster than inflation.

Public hearings for the inquiry heard accounts of exorbitant pricing far beyond inflation, including residents in Cape York, Queensland, being charged $19 a kilo for mincemeat and $100 for a leg of ham at their supermarkets.

The ACTU previously told The New Daily the public has made more submissions about supermarkets during the inquiry than any other industry, but the grocery sector isn’t the only one under the spotlight.

The report is expected to include detailed analysis of, and recommendations for retail electricity markets, airports, banks, early childhood education, electric vehicles, health care and pharmaceuticals.

ACCC takes action

Australia’s supermarket duopoly, banks and airlines all posted monster profits in 2023 as Australians struggled with rising costs and inflation.

The Albanese government has signalled a willingness to examine the issue in the supermarket industry, without committing to any policy addressing it, after directing the ACCC to investigate pricing and competition in the sector following Fels’ letter.


Supermarkets face an ACCC probe as the Albanese government tentatively moves on grocery price gouging. Photo: Getty

The 12-month inquiry will examine the current structure of the supermarket industry, competition and how it has changed since 2008, the pricing practices of supermarkets and impediments to competitive pricing along the supply chain.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the ACCC will use “its significant powers to probe the difference between the price paid at the farm gate and the prices people pay at the checkout”.

“When farmers are selling their product for less, supermarkets should charge Australians less,” he said.

“My government is prepared to take action to make sure that Australians are not paying one dollar more than they should for the things they need.”

State-based inquiries into price gouging are also picking up steam, with the Victorian Greens pushing for a parliamentary inquiry and South Australia currently debating whether to hold one of its own.

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