NewsProtect & Extend Unit Pricing

Protect & Extend Unit Pricing

Politicians often make grandiose claims as to how they can contain cost of living pressures, but petrol, electricity and grocery prices usually defy their best efforts. 

Yet, the one policy which has demonstrably saved ordinary consumers millions of dollars languishes largely unloved by the pollies’.

It’s called unit pricing and we have the efforts of one retired economist to thank…not only for pushing its introduction but also for trying to keep it fit-for-purpose and up-to-date.

That man is the tireless consumer advocate Ian Jarratt, aged 74, from the voluntary Queensland Consumers Association. He is now facing a new battle to improve unit pricing.

There’s a fair chance you use unit pricing in supermarkets to outsmart package sizes which may bear little relation to their contents.

But to many people, especially those who need it most such as the elderly, the less well-off and marginalised groups, don’t get the benefits as they don’t know it exists or find it too difficult to use.

Unit pricing, usually in smaller font at the bottom of shelf labels, shows at its most basic how much a packaged product costs per kilo or per litre.

This allows you to compare the unit prices to see where the best value lies across different package sizes, different brands and even different outlets.

Research by Choice and the Queensland University of Technology suggests a family of four could save around $1650 a year using the often-overlooked tool.

It’s an 18% saving on their annual grocery bill and as we collectively spend $100 billion a year on groceries that’s a potential saving well north of $10 billion.

We are used to buying unpackaged fruit and vegies by per kilo prices but with biscuits, chips, cereals etc where  the size of packages may have scant  relation to the weight of the contents it really helps.

UP (unit pricing) as it’s known gives the shopper the ability to see through various packaged products with inconsistent and varied weights and volumes to discover the real cost of its contents.

Ian won a Winston Churchill Trust scholarship in 2006 to travel the world and bring back best practice to these shores where we had no consistent, regulated or effective system.

In 2009, thanks to his concerted lobbying UP became compulsory for larger supermarkets. The rest should be history but there are problems.

The main one is some unit prices are too difficult to read and there is no regulation as to font size.

ALDI was an early adopter of the system but is now in hot water for dropping the UP print size to, in their words, ‘de-clutter’ shelf labels.

Ian say, “There are several major problems with how supermarkets now provide unit prices, for example, using small and non-bold print so that many unit prices are very difficult to notice and read, even for shoppers with good eyesight.

“Other major problems include non-provision and use of inappropriate or inconsistent units of measure. These problems are greatly reducing the benefits obtained from grocery unit pricing.”

The good news is there is a ten-year review by the Treasury of the system to see what needs to change: such as the minimum size of store and the possible inclusion of hardware, pharmacy and other types of store.

The online survey is open until February 28.

Please spend a few minutes throwing in your ‘two bobs worth’ for UP on the survey.

If you use it, the savings might amount to thousands of dollars, so you owe it to others to help bolster the system. If you don’t use it, get wise now and start.

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Anonymous from QLD commented:

Use it all the time - but needs to be readable. So much easier and quicker to do shopping since Unit Pricing came in! 

YVONNE from NSW commented:

yes i agree 

Maree from VIC commented:

Thank you Mr Jarratt, for your efforts. I find the unit pricing invaluable to ensure I can get the best buy for my hard earned money. 

Cheryl from NSW commented:

I always us the UP information and find it quite valuable to my shopping. I agree that the information should be in bold a nd larger print. It does take me awhile to read the shelf labels as I have an eye sight problem but I do persevere. Please improve the UP information. 

Tony from VIC commented:

I use the UP information all the time when shopping. It is such an important tool to help save money. It's surprising how many times a 'bulk' package or one on special is actually more expensive than a smaller package or same brand product not on special. Thanks for posting this article and link to the survey. 

Allan from NSW commented:

At the age of 77 my eyesight is not as good as it could be. As the information above indicates the font is too small to read properly especially the lower shelves where I look over my glasses. Some 375 ml cans have a UP stated of a price per litre which is hard to work out per can not all are stated so.. I like that the UP is there. 

Antal from SA commented:

The trouble with me is being 85 I have poor eye sight, so unless I carry a magnifying glass with me I can not read unit pricing, that is not very often. Anton 

Barbara from NSW commented:

I usually use the UP, especially when I am buying a product or brand for the first time. I mostly shop at a major Supermarket and find that the labels are always using the same font, and are set out in the same way so that I know exactly where to look for the information that I want, easily. Makes shopping easier and helps me make choices more quickly. 

Anonymous from VIC commented:

I use it all the time and it definitely saves me money! 

Gertraud from ACT commented:

I'm afraid I don't see the issue surrounding with unit pricing. If people don't want to use it, they won't and no amount of preaching will convert them. I welcomed it when Aldi initially introduced it, as it meant I no longer had to do calculations in my head when comparing products and/or sizes. 

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