Foodstuffs hits back after Consumer NZ criticises supermarkets, says they haven't corrected hundreds of 'dodgy' specials

  • 06/06/2023

Consumer NZ is again preparing to ask the Commerce Commission to probe supermarkets over their special deals.

But Foodstuffs, the parent company of supermarket giants including New World and Pak'nSave, has said it's concerned about the methodology Consumer NZ was using to make its claims. 

Gemma Rasmussen, Consumer NZ's head of research and advocacy, claimed supermarkets hadn't made any rectifications after it said more than 300 "dodgy" deals were discovered earlier this year. 

"In the last two months alone, we've received over 160 complaints which highlight how often people are experiencing pricing issues at the supermarket,"  Rasmussen said. 

"While the supermarkets acknowledged our previous concerns about problematic pricing and promotional practices, we are disappointed that nothing has changed," Consumer NZ said.

Rasmussen said Consumer NZ was preparing to lay a complaint with the Commerce Commission but wanted to collect as much evidence as possible, and urged Kiwis to get in touch with any instances of "dodgy" pricing.

"The more examples we have, the stronger our case will be."

Rasmussen said Consumer NZ's major concern was Kiwis being able to save cash during the cost of living crunch.

"With food costs still rising, we know New Zealanders are actively seeking out specials to save cash wherever they can.

"Being able to afford the basics each week is a big stress for many families, so people need to have confidence the prices on supermarket shelves are fair, clear and will be honoured at the checkout. Our concern remains that people are being misled by supermarkets."

While Foodstuffs earlier said it was only aware of single-figure issues that were rectified - not hundreds as claimed - Rasmussen said Consumer NZ didn't "think supermarkets plan to up their game and rectify this issue anytime soon".

"It's up to us to hold the major supermarkets to account."

Foodstuffs hits back after Consumer NZ criticises supermarkets, says they haven't corrected hundreds of 'dodgy' specials
Photo credit: Getty Images

However, Foodstuffs argued Consumer NZ hadn't provided any evidence of "dodgy" supermarket specials. 

"Foodstuffs stores collectively support over 3.5 million customer visits each week, in our stores and online - and since Consumer NZ started their campaign we have transacted over 125 million items.  Under the Fair Trading Act (FTA), our local grocers and their teams understand their customers have the right to clear and accurate prices for products and services," spokesperson Emma Wooster said.

"If there's a mistake, we respectfully work quickly and respectfully to put it right and we'll always refund customers where they’ve been overcharged.  If any customer sees a ticket they feel is incorrect or finds a pricing error, either before or after they've gone through the checkout, they should raise it directly with one of our team first.

"Foodstuffs is concerned about the methodology behind Consumer NZ's blanket claims about 'supermarket' pricing practices. We understand and welcome that Consumer NZ will be providing the examples from its campaign to the Commerce Commission so that Consumer NZ's claims can be properly investigated and any genuine pricing issues can be resolved."

Wooster said Foodstuffs hadn't received any information about Consumer NZ's most recent claims.

"Back in April, Consumer NZ provided us [with] seven examples of claims of pricing issues which we promptly looked into. The majority of the seven examples Consumer NZ provided were instances of differences between brand-wide prices and store-specific prices in Foodstuffs North Island stores," Wooster said, adding the issues didn't result in any customers being overcharged.

The Government announced last year it would be establishing a Grocery Commissioner to ensure fair play in the sector, which Foodstuffs said it fully supported.

However, Westpac warned in a report last month while the Government's reforms were touted as transformational, "we don't think they will generate sufficient competition to deliver significant benefits for the consumer".

The Government disagreed with the report.