Crackdown on supermarkets short-changing shoppers
John Tadigiri | On 12, Oct 2018
Supermarkets in Australia have been found to be short-changing their customers on the weight of up to one in every three items that they sell.
The breaches are minor, but over a period, the customer will be receiving a considerable quantity less than that which is advertised, and which they are paying for. Customers on low and fixed incomes, in particular, would feel the effect of this on their weekly budget.
Later this year the government agency the National Measurement Institute (NMI) will undertake a two-week blitz on Coles, Costco, Woolworths, Aldi and IGA Supermarkets around Australia to ensure customers are getting what they pay for.
The discrepancies are mainly found where the Supermarket is not taking the weight of the packaging into consideration when displaying the weight and selling price. Scales and all measuring equipment used by the retailers will also be tested to ensure their accuracy.
The blitz will use the services of ‘Mystery Shoppers’. The supermarket, if found to be showing incorrect weights, will have the matter drawn to their attention so that they can fix the problems. However, if on follow up they are found not to have addressed the issue, then a fine of up to $1050 per breach will be imposed.
In the past, it has been found that the breaches have been relatively minor and easily remedied. The fresh fish section has been found to be the most consistently inaccurate in the weight shown on the packaging, and the weight of the actual contents. This seems to be a result of the practice of filling the bag in which the fish is sold with ice to keep the fish cold – but in fact, the customer is receiving up to 25 per cent less than what they are paying for as the product is weighed with the ice included. The fish or seafood One in ten packages of ready-cooked meals and the same number of processed meat packages were also found to be underweight.Supermarkets are not the only culprits. Around 6 per cent of petrol pumps is also delivering less than what they should be. With skyrocketing price of petrol, consumers need to be vigilant. But it is not an easy problem for the customer to identify. NMI regularly check the accuracy of the pumps to ensure the customer is not being shortchanged.
These problems are not new, with incidents having been reported in the media for many years. But how do we, as consumers, prevent or minimise these risks? You can always do your own ‘spot checks’ by using a can to purchase a measured quantity of petrol. Any discrepancy then becomes easily identified. You can then bring it to the attention of the service station, or if the problem persists, you can report it to NMI. You can fill in a form online; you can phone the Hotline to report incidents, or you can email the department.
The NMI periodically checks all businesses across Australia to ensure compliance. But it relies on you as a consumer being aware of any breaches and reporting any problems to them.