Legal issues and the Attorney-General's portfolio - Unit pricing


Budget Review 2009-10 Index

Budget 2009 10: Legal issues and the Attorney-General's portfolio

Unit pricing

PaoYi Tan

The Government has announced funding of $2.2 million over two years to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to establish a unit pricing code for retail supermarkets.[1]

Unit pricing refers to the system of pricing goods on the basis of a cost per unit of measure. It requires supermarket retailers to display prices of products according to cost per unit (for example, the cost per 100 grams or per litre). This is in addition to displaying the total retail price of a product. For example, unit pricing is currently used in Australia for certain prescribed products under State and Territory legislation, including loose fresh produce (such as fruit and vegetables) and some meat and cheese products. [2]

On 15 May 2008 Senator Fielding of the Family First Party introduced the Unit Pricing (Easy comparison of grocery prices) Bill 2008 into the Senate.  The Bill was referred to the Standing Committee on Economics which tabled its report on 1 September 2008.  The majority recommended that the Bill not be passed.[3]  The Committee noted that the Australian Government had made a commitment to consider the best way to introduce a mandatory nationally-consistent unit pricing scheme.[4]

Subsequently, on 23 March 2009 the Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs, Chris Bowen, released a draft industry code ‘to implement a nationally-consistent unit pricing scheme’.[5] The code will take over the current State and Territory system of unit pricing, and expand it to include a wider range of grocery items, such as pre-packaged goods. It will be prescribed by the Trade Practices (Industry Codes – Unit Pricing) Regulations 2009 under section 51AE of the Trade Practices Act 1974, which are due to commence on 1 July 2009. It is anticipated that operation of the code will commence on 1 December 2009.[6]

The ACCC’s role will be to ‘provide industry and consumers with educative measures and be the agency responsible for the enforcement of the code’.[7]



[1].    Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2009–10, p. 387.

[2].    For example, see section 26 of the Trade Measurement Act 1991 (ACT) or section 26 of the Trade Measurement Act 1995 (VIC).

[3].    Senate Standing Committee on Economics, ‘Unit Pricing (Easy comparison of grocery prices) Bill 2008’, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 1 September 2008, p. 25, viewed 18 May 2009 http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/economics_ctte/unit_pricing_08/report/index.htm

[4].    Senate Standing Committee on Economics, p. 25.

[5].    C Bowen, (Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs), Draft code brings national unit pricing scheme one step closer, media release, Canberra, 23 March 2009, viewed 14 May 2009 http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query%3DId%3A%22media%2Fpressrel%2FWT3T6%22

[6].    C Bowen, (Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs), Australian consumers to save with unit pricing, media release, Canberra, 8 January 2009, viewed 14 May 2009 http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22media%2Fpressrel%2FU8JS6%22

[7]     C Bowen, Australian consumers to save with unit pricing.


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