Independent supermarkets will find it difficult to compete with the multiples if unit pricing is introduced, the Australian Senate was told today (11 August).

Following a recommendation made last week by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's inquiry into the grocery sector, the Australian government is currently mulling the best way to introduce a mandatory price comparison scheme.

However, Family First senator Steve Fielding has already introduced a proposal setting up a similar system: the Unit Pricing (Easy Comparison of Grocery Prices) Bill 2008. Under the proposed bill, supermarkets would be required to display unit prices of grocery products sold by measure, weight or volume.

The National Association of Retail Grocers Australia (NARGA), representing the independents, has said that smaller retailers would be unable to absorb the cost of such a scheme. The cost would therefore be passed along to consumers, making independent retailers less competitive.

"It would make it difficult for them to be more competitive, and from the customer's perspective, introducing unit pricing may simply have the effect of raising prices," NARGA spokesman Ken Henrick told the Senate hearing.