Consumer NZ is renewing its calls for supermarket giants Foodstuffs and Woolworths to end their "dodgy pricing practices and promotions" as cost of living pressures continue to bite.
The organisation said its nationally representative research found that most renters are now more concerned about putting food on the table than paying for a roof over their heads.
"Food prices are up 12% year on year, the highest increase since 1989. Food concerns have been steadily creeping up over the last 18 months — but this is the first time we've seen food worries outstrip housing," Consumer NZ's head of research and advocacy Gemma Rasmussen said.
In June 2021, food ranked as the eighth highest financial concern with New Zealanders more worried about education costs, personal debt and even home maintenance outgoings than food.
This year, mortgage payments are top of mind for Kiwis, followed by food and then rent.
"At a bare minimum, shoppers need to be able to trust the prices they see at the supermarkets so they can make informed choices," she said.
Rasmussen said Consumer NZ has been sent examples from New Zealanders of "shelf pricing failing to match the price charged at the till, 'special’ prices matching regular prices and multibuy offers which work out to be more expensive than purchasing items individually".
"Our research shows that people are more likely to buy a product if it's on special. Given cost of living pressures that many households are experiencing, many people are doing their best to reduce costs — buying products they perceive to be special. This leaves shoppers vulnerable if the sales are not genuine."
Consumer NZ last week sent out open letters to the chief executives of Foodstuffs North and South Island, and the managing director of Woolworths, outlining their concerns around "dodgy pricing" and its potential breach of the Fair Trading Act.
"We are asking you to take urgent action to address this situation. While we have not made a formal complaint to the Commission at this time, we will be sharing this letter, so the Commission is aware Foodstuffs has had the problem drawn to its attention," Consumer NZ chief executive Jon Duffy wrote in his open letters to the supermarket bosses.
"In April we intend to undertake further monitoring of all supermarkets in New Zealand and will put another call out to shoppers across the country asking them to report confusing or misleading pricing and promotions at supermarkets.
"We hope to see an improvement in supermarkets’ pricing and promotional practices. However, any examples we receive will be shared with the Commerce Commission for its consideration."