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Coles and Woolworths reject price-gouging claims after Shonky Award 'wins'

The supermarket giants have been accused of "cashing in" on struggling Aussies. Here's what they have to say.

Coles and Woolworths have responded after being accused of "cashing in" and making "a billion dollar profit" in a cost-of-living crisis by consumer advocacy group CHOICE in its annual Shonky Awards.

The Shonkys are aimed at shining a light on businesses "doing the wrong thing" by customers and this year CHOICE has the two supermarket giants at the top of the list.

"Coles and Woolworths have each recorded over a billion dollars in profits this year and people are questioning whether that's justified," CHOICE CEO Alan Kirkland said.

Coles sign and Woolworths truck
CHOICE says customers have lost faith that Coles and Woolworths will give them a fair deal. (Source: Getty)

He said a survey conducted by CHOICE in September showed more than 60 per cent of shoppers believed the big two made a lot of money from price hikes, while less than 20 per cent thought they were doing enough to keep prices low.

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"While Coles and Woolies have been promoting how they're supposedly helping with the cost of living, in the background they've been banking huge profits. At the same time, frequent changes in prices mean it's hard to tell if you’re even getting a genuine discount. They are well and truly deserving of a Shonky award," added Kirkland.

Coles says CHOICE is missing the big picture

Coles has expressed "disappointment" at being included on the list, claiming it doesn't reflect supply chain issues, the cost of everyday staples going up, or the actual profits the business makes on each customer's shop.

A Coles spokesperson told Yahoo Finance that in real terms it makes little profit off what customers spend, while a large chunk of the reported profits it made in the past year was due to the sale of Coles Express in 2022.

Coles trolleys, staff and customers at checkout area
Coles has defended its prices during the cost-of-living crisis. (Source: Getty)

"At Coles, we believe all Australians should be able to put quality food on the table for their families and we are always exploring ways to reduce prices on the products we sell," the spokesperson said.

"Over the past few months, we've reduced the price on more than 500 products and we're committed to ensuring the products our customers rely on each week are the best possible value they can be.

“For every $100 a customer spends, Coles makes $2.60. This ensures we can continue to employ more than 120,000 Australians, partner with more than 8,000 suppliers and farmers, support local communities and continue to invest in value for the millions of customers who visit our stores every week.

"Coles is also not immune to the increased cost of doing business — construction costs, energy prices, the cost of logistics and packaging have all risen."

Woolworths dismisses price-gouging accusations

In a similar vein, Woolworths also defended its retail practices, telling Yahoo Finance it offers the fairest possible deals for customers, staff and suppliers.

"We're acutely aware of the pressure that's being placed on Australian families through cost-of-living increases, whether they are our customers or our team members," a Woolies spokesperson said.

Staff and shoppers at Woolworths checkouts
Woolworths claims it puts customers before profits. (Source: Getty)

"And we're doing more everyday to help customers spend less with us. That's why we have more than 6,000 weekly specials, more than 3,000 products on our Low Price program, hundreds of products across our seasonal Prices Dropped campaigns and introduced Member Pricing.

"We know there's more to do and that's why we'll continue to invest in the future, whether that's support for our team, creating jobs, investing in communities and paying fair prices to the thousands of businesses (both large and small) we work with across the country."

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