The ACCC has released guidelines for grocery retailers on their obligations under new unit pricing laws. These requirements are set out in the Trade Practices (Industry Codes – Unit Pricing) Regulations 2009, which establish a mandatory code for unit pricing. The code came into effect on 1 July 2009.
Unit pricing requires retailers to display the price of groceries offered in a standard measurement (such as ml, L, kg etc), in conjunction with its selling price. This measure aims to increase price transparency by allowing consumers quickly to compare the prices of differently sized and/or branded goods.
Certain items are exempt, such as those sold at a reduced price due to damage or their perishable nature, those offered as a bundle of goods at a single price, and discontinued items. Non-print advertising such as radio and television is also exempt from complying with the new requirements.
Prescribed retailers (larger supermarkets and online retailers) must display grocery items in accordance with the code by 1 December 2009. Other retailers may choose to opt in to the code, or not participate. However, once retailers choose to opt in, compliance with the code is mandatory and legally binding. Display of the unit price must be prominent, legible, unambiguous and in close proximity to the selling price.
Breaches of the code and investigation by the ACCC may result in compensation payments, court enforceable undertakings or orders for corrective advertising. Grocery retailers should seek legal advice on implementing effective trade practices compliance programs if they are unsure of how the new laws will affect their business practices.