Cost of living crisis: Consumer NZ asks Kiwi shoppers to watch for 'dodgy' specials at supermarket

Kiwis shoppers are being warned to watch out for "dodgy" specials as Consumer NZ calls on supermarkets to stop misleading pricing and promotions. 

Consumer NZ announced a campaign on Thursday trying to stop what they call "dodgy" specials. 

They want Kiwis to send them examples of unclear or misleading pricing and promotions, so it can hold the supermarkets to account. 

"Whether it's a multi-buy that works out to be the same price whether you buy one or five items, a product advertised 'on special' selling for its regular price, or something advertised as being on special that's charged at the regular price, we want to hear about it," Consumer NZ chief executive Jon Duffy said.

The grocery sector has previously called for new rules to stop retailers from using confusing pricing and promotional strategies that make it difficult for consumers to figure out what they're getting for their money. 

"However, this didn't happen. Instead, the Commerce Commission recommended supermarkets take responsibility to ensure their pricing and promotional practices are simple and easy to understand," Duffy said.

But Duffy isn't convinced supermarkets will change their ways without pressure from consumers.

"Retailers know shoppers are more likely to buy a product if it's on special - this leaves consumers vulnerable if specials are not genuine. We have seen plenty of examples through complaints we receive," Duffy said. 

Earlier this year in May, the Government announced a major supermarket shake-up to increase competition.

It comes as part of the Government's response to the Commerce Commission's market study where it made 14 recommendations, including introducing a mandatory code of conduct to establishing an industry regulator and ensuring loyalty programmes are easy to understand and transparent. 

The Government accepted 12 of the recommendations and said it's taking stronger action on the other two.

The cost of living crisis is continuing to hit Kiwis hard in the back pocket, with Statistics NZ's food price index released last week showing food prices increased by 8.3 percent in the year to August - the most in 13 years.

The index was also 1.1 percent higher (0.9 pct after seasonal adjustment) last month than in July.

Consumer's Sentiment Tracker found New Zealanders' concerns about the cost of living have risen sharply over the past year, with food prices a key component. 

The cost of food now ranks second highest on a list of financial concerns, behind housing payments. Last year, food ranked as the eighth-highest concern, trailing other household outgoings.

"It's crucial that supermarkets are honest with their pricing, so consumers can confidently compare prices and trust they are getting a genuinely good deal when they purchase something on special," Duffy said.  

"We will continue to keep a close eye on the sector and encourage consumers to let us know when they see concerning behaviour by the supermarkets."

This comes after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told AM on Monday the changes the Government has made to try to bring food prices down will work but warned: "it will take time". 

Ardern said the escalating prices come down to global factors and the makeup of the supermarket industry. 

"Food prices for us, there are two things at play here. One is the inflationary impacts that we're seeing around the world, that's where things like the cost of living payment are designed to help ease that and we have another cost of living payment still due," Ardern told AM co-host Melissa Chan-Green from London. 

"The second thing that we know is an issue in New Zealand is just the makeup of our supermarkets and the fact that we don't have wide-ranging competition relative to other countries. So we are making moves there."