Coronavirus: Foodstuffs tracking prices to ensure there's no price-gouging

Foodstuffs says it is tracking the prices of its items to ensure customers don't become victims of price-gouging during the lockdown period.

The supermarket co-operative giant, which controls the PAK'nSAVE, New World and Four Square brands, is one of the few businesses allowed to stay open during alert level four.

Foodstuffs North Island CEO Chris Quin told Magic Talk they have been getting price details of essentials items across their supermarket brands and tracking them to see if they change.

"[We have been tracking] one, where we sit in price compared to the brands and competition, and secondly, where we sit compared to a basket of goods that a customer would buy," Quin said.

"I can see from that data through that time there have been very small moves up and down in terms of the average of a basket of goods. And it's driven by fresh foods, by what's in season and what's not, by drought and various things."

Quin says the level of panic-buying has caused problems in high-demand areas.

"We put restrictions on items as we've seen them come up, but we've got to remember, even if I say you can only buy two items, what we can't easily control is you coming back twice that day.

"The volume has tripled in some of these key categories. We have got volume restrictions on some of those in-store at times we need to, and still we are seeing the level of demand."

He says over 1000 extra staff have been hired across the Foodstuffs brands to help stores cope with the extra pressure and demand. Staff have also been working overtime to help restock shelves.

But he says there's been no thought of how much this will cost them, their thoughts have been about what they need to do to ensure they can keep doing their job.

On Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said officials had found no evidence of price-gouging by supermarkets, but an email address had been set up so the public could report unfair pricing if they discovered it.

She said officials had looked into reports of price-gouging by supermarkets since the lockdown started, and while no evidence has been found, complaints can now be directed to

"I'm aware that there have been instances of fresh produce price increases," Ardern said at her Monday post-Cabinet press conference. 

"We do need to be aware that these could simply reflect seasonal fluctuations, however during a period in which there is less competition in the food retail sector, and increasing demand, it is more important than ever that prices are fair and reasonable."

Ardern said she's seen allegations of price-gouging and she's now asking the public to make those complaints official by going through the new email system, with evidence such as a receipt copy. 

The complaints will be handled by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).