Statement: Woolworths – all care no responsibility, loyal customers squeezed again amid more record profits

Woolworths – all care no responsibility, loyal customers squeezed again amid more record profits

Shoppers have every right to be dismayed, if not angry, at the contemptuous behaviour and attitude of Coles and Woolworths as consumers confront unprecedented cost of living pressures.

For example, Woolworths’ half-yearly results reveal underlying profits increasing again to nearly one billion dollars and its margins on food sales on the rise again to 6.1 per cent.

The supermarket giants like to present themselves as putting the interests of the customer first, but in the case of Woolworths at least what the company’s leadership really thinks was on open display on the ABC’s Four Corners on Monday night. Far from acknowledging what is a fact accepted by economists and business analysts alike – that Australia has one of the most concentrated supermarket sectors in the world – Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci chose to question the credibility of the widely respected former head of the ACCC, Rod Sims.

I am not surprised that Mr Banducci has now decided to resign. However, it will take more than a change of leadership to rebuild the reputations and social licence of Australia’s supermarket giants. They need to start treating customers with greater honesty and transparency, ensuring that their prices across the board are the best they can do rather than trying to pull the wool over shoppers’ eyes with “bargains” that are anything but and other gimmicks designed to extract more money out of their pockets and into their coffers.

For example, Choice last year called out the practice of Coles in lifting prices on items promoted as “locked” before the date on which they were advertised as remaining on special, including essentials like cornflakes.

It is high time for the government to introduce tougher consumer protection laws as well as a food and grocery code of conduct that includes real penalties for breaches and ensures an end to the power imbalance between retailers, producers, suppliers and customers.

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