Coles Apologises for Price Hike on ‘Locked’ Items

Coles has issued an apology for prematurely increasing the prices of 20 items that were part of a price lock promotion and is now offering refunds to the numerous customers impacted.

The price hike affected items like cornflakes, pregnancy tests, dishwashing tablets, chopped tomatoes, and barbecue briquettes, which had been advertised with stable prices to assist consumers in budgeting.

The issue came to light when Choice, a consumer advocacy group, filed a complaint with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. A representative from Coles acknowledged the mistake of raising prices before the promotional period ended, stating their commitment to addressing customer cost-of-living concerns and their intention to rectify the error promptly.

Coles plans to reinstate the promotion of these products. Customers who shopped using their Flybuys card or through Coles Online have been automatically refunded, while others need to present their receipts at the service desk for a refund.

Andrew Kelly, Deputy Director of Campaigns at Choice, criticised Coles for not honouring its pricing commitments, highlighting the contradiction between their professed support for consumers during the cost-of-living crisis and their failure to maintain promised prices.

An earlier analysis by a media outlet found a pricing discrepancy in Woolworths’ milk, which Woolworths acknowledged and corrected.

A Senate inquiry is scheduled for next year to examine if Coles and Woolworths, which recorded over $1 billion in profits and dominate more than 60% of Australia’s grocery market, have been engaging in price gouging during the cost-of-living crisis.

The latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that food and grocery inflation is at 4.8%, lower than the overall inflation rate of 5.4%. While prices for lamb and vegetables have decreased, staples like bread, fish, and dairy have seen significant price increases.

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