Australia's major supermarkets are charging consumers significantly more for purchasing groceries online. The practice has consumer groups calling on Coles and Woolworths to be more "transparent" with shoppers about their online pricing policies.
A sample survey by Fairfax Media has revealed consumers are paying up to 60¢ more for some grocery items when bought online. This is in addition to the delivery fee of between $3 and $13 charged to online shoppers.
On average, Coles charged 47¢ more per item for a small basket of groceries bought online compared with purchasing the same products in-store.
At Woolworths, items bought online were on average 27¢ more expensive than the same item bought in-store.
The most significant price differences were found at Coles, including a 150 pack of Hercules sandwich bags that were $7.11 at a Coles supermarket in Prahran compared with $7.71 at Coles' online store; and a two litre tub of Bulla frozen yoghurt that was $6.99 in-store and $7.58 online.
At Woolworths, a 20 pack of Chux Superwipes cost $6 from Woolworths in Prahran compared with $6.45 on its online store; and a 375 gram tub of Mainland Butter cost $5.69 in-store compared with $6.12 online.
"I think consumers are largely not aware that there is a price discrepancy between in-store and online prices," said Tom Godfrey, head of media at CHOICE.
"We'd like supermarkets to be more transparent about this. The more information they can provide consumers to make informed decisions, the better."
Coles conceded some grocery items are more costly to buy online. However, when asked if it endeavoured to inform customers of higher online prices, it did not respond.
"The higher cost of hand picking and packing products for customers right across Australia means that in addition to the delivery charge some products are at a slightly higher price online," Coles spokesman Jon Church said in a statement.
Of the 20 grocery items purchased by Fairfax Media at Coles and Woolworths, only one item – a six pack of Tip Top English muffins from Woolworths – was priced equally online and in-store. The remaining items were between 17¢ and 60¢ more expensive to purchase online.
A Woolworths spokeswoman said: "Some online prices are slightly higher than those in store to take into account the personal shopper service of a staff member picking and packing online orders."
She said the terms and conditions on the retailer's website informed consumers that: "The purchase price of a product on the site may not be the same or correspond to the prices in any of our supermarkets for the same product."
Mr Godfrey said the information should be made clearer to shoppers and warned consumers to shop around for the best price.
"Don't presume you're getting the best price online because the chances are you're not . . . Coles and Woolworths are two of the most profitable retailers in the world and they don't get that way by giving consumers a free run."
WHAT WE FOUND
ITEM In-Store Price (Online Price) Price difference
Multix Wrap Foil (30cm x 30 metre) $5.99 ($6.50) 51¢
Glad Wrap 100 metre $6.99 ($7.58) 59¢
Hercules sandwich bags (150 pack) $7.11 ($7.71) 60¢
Capilano squeeze honey (375g) $5 ($5.43) 43¢
Bulla Tub Frozen Yoghurt (2 litre) $6.99 ($7.58) 59¢
Chux Superwipes Regular 20pk $6 ($6.45) 45¢
Kraft Peanut Butter Smooth (375g) $4.49 ($4.83) 34¢
Kleenex Facial Tissue 170 pack $4.29 ($4.61) 32¢
Barilla Sauce Pasta Arrabiata (400g) $3.49 ($3.75) 26¢
Mainland Butter Soft Less Salt (375g) $5.69 ($6.12) 43¢