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Why Coles and Woolworths savaged for 'cheap prices'

There's a sea of yellow tags in Aussie supermarkets, and MP Dr Monique Ryan believes she knows why.

Supermarkets have been called out over the huge number of currently discounted items.

While many shoppers have been begging the likes of Woolworths and Coles to stop increasing prices, the vast array of products with reduced labels hasn’t gone unnoticed.

A parliamentary inquiry into supermarket pricing is now underway and how Coles and Woolies charge customers and suppliers will be put under the microscope. This comes off the back of allegations the two big supermarkets have been price gouging Australians during the cost-of-living crisis.

Woolworths aisle showing loads of items on sale
The number of discounts popping up at supermarkets like Woolworths and Coles has been questioned. (Source: TikTok)

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Both Coles and Woolworths have recently announced they have slashed the prices of hundreds of items across the store, but independent MP Dr Monique Ryan believes there’s a reason behind the move - and it’s not just because they want to help struggling Aussies.

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“I think they're under pressure and their commercial behaviour is reflecting that at the moment,” she explained to Yahoo Finance.

The federal member for Kooyong said she’d been sent loads of messages from customers airing “their concerns about pricing behaviour” at the moment.

Ryan stitched a TikTok of a shopper pointing out the discount tags in a supermarket aisle. "So cheap," the shopper said. But Ryan said Australians should be wary of the big supermarkets advertising lower prices.

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“Don't be deceived. Coles and Woolworths still earned billion-dollar profits last year while increasing their prices by 10 per cent,” she said. “They still control 65 per cent of the grocery market - that's more market concentration than in almost any other part of the world.

“Reducing prices for a couple of months won't fix any of that. Everyone has to keep pressure on the government to institute bold reforms to make the sector more competitive.

“Sure, Coles and Woolworths have shown us that they can lower prices for a couple of months, but we need prices to stay low. Not for a couple of months, but for a couple of decades.”

Woolworths told Yahoo Finance in a statement: “We know many Australian families are doing it tough and looking for relief at the checkout. We know our customers are looking for lower prices and offers to help them manage their budgets, and we want to help them to spend less when they shop with us.”

Coles was also approached for comment but had not responded before publication.

ACCC’s investigation into supermarket pricing

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is undertaking a year-long inquiry into whether consumers are paying too much at the checkout.

Farmers are demanding significant penalties to crack down on supermarkets overcharging customers while leaving suppliers high and dry.

The highly perishable nature of fruit, vegetables and nursery products makes it hard to find buyers at short notice and other markets are not viable because they aren't large or accessible enough, according to the National Farmers Federation.

They are calling for supermarkets and large businesses consistently and systemically breaching consumer codes and ripping off producers to be severely punished.

Penalties should include a timed cap on future expansion of market share and divestiture powers, the council said.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has rejected calls for big-stick divestiture powers to force compliance, likening such policies to the old Soviet Union.

- with AAP