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Calls for consumer watchdog to launch inquiry into supermarkets' behaviour

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Supermarkets have been put on notice to pass on savings when meat and food prices drop.

When wholesale prices go down, the cost of items at the checkout should drop as well, Treasurer Jim Chalmers says.

The government is reviewing competition laws to help people doing it tough “in the aisles of our supermarkets right around Australia”.

“We are concerned that when the price for meat and fruit and vegetables at the farm gate goes down, we want to see the price of those goods go down on the supermarket shelves as well,” he told reporters in Brisbane this week.

“If the supermarkets are buying it cheaper, they should be selling it cheaper, too.”

The treasurer is in contact with the consumer watchdog, which monitors prices across the economy and is set to speak with the ACCC again this week.

“This is a fairly regular topic of conversation, how we make sure that we’ve got the monitoring arrangements right,” Dr Chalmers said.

Coles has said prices are set by the market.

Shoppers were frustrated but had nowhere else to go, consumer spending expert Graeme Hughes said.

“Consumers have little power to vote with their feet due to the lack of competition,” he said.

Nationals Leader David Littleproud wants the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to launch an inquiry into the prices of everyday goods at supermarkets.

“If Labor had initiated the investigation, then the ACCC would have given the government solutions before Christmas for so many Australians doing it tough,” he told AAP.

A Senate inquiry has already been set up but hearings won’t begin until February.

“It makes more sense to have the professionals with the expertise and tools to investigate supermarkets, rather than a bunch of politicians,” Mr Littleproud said.

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Coles has defended its prices, saying they’re set by the market and also depend on seasonal conditions as well as supply and demand.

Woolworths said it was always working to strike the right balance to ensure access to high-quality produce and giving suppliers a fair market price.

Woolworths says it tries to give a fair market price to suppliers.

But Opposition Leader Peter Dutton attacked the government for promising Australians they would be better off under Labor.

Labor campaigned on the increasing price of everyday items under the coalition outside – and inside – grocery stores during the 2022 federal election.

“The cost of food is up under this government, the cost of gas, the cost of electricity and every other item under the budget at the moment is putting pressure on families,” Mr Dutton said.

“The prime minister is out there saying that he’s now asking the Treasury and Finance (Department) to come up with ideas about how they can address people’s cost-of-living pressures – that’s what he promised to do before the election.”

The government is focusing on taming inflation and boosting wages to make goods more affordable.

Do you have an opinion to share? Submit a Letter to the Editor at Sunshine Coast News via news@sunshinecoastnews.com.au. You must include your name and suburb.

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