Mobile app to compare food prices
A mobile app to allow the public to compare grocery prices in different shops is to be developed, the finance minister said in the Budget speech.
Curtis Dickinson said that the Government understood that food prices were a major factor in the cost of living and would make the reporting of prices in stores mandatory and that the figures would be available to consumers through a new app.
But the head of one island charity said that the reporting requirement did not go far enough.
Claudette Fleming, the executive director of Age Concern, said: “Staple items need to be cost protected.
“An added measure could be an incentive and/or acknowledgement system for grocers who provide quality staple goods at reasonable prices, and/or the application of a corporate responsibility incentive for grocers who provide considerable philanthropic support to a non- government helping agency whose core mission involves food security.”
She added that a “shame list” could be created to highlight retailers who charged “outlandish” prices on core goods.
Dr Fleming said that it was too early to say if the mobile app would be helpful to Age Concern clients and that its usefulness to seniors would depend on their familiarity with technology.
She added: “A print publication would likely be more useful to most.”
Dr Fleming said in December that food prices had become one of the biggest expenses for the charity’s members, and that food was overtaking electricity.
Mr Dickinson told MPs last Friday: “In an effort to promote more price transparency and aid consumers in identifying alternative food pricing, the Government will be amending the Cost of Living Commission Act to require reporting of prices from grocers to the Government.
“This information will be made available to the public via mobile application so that consumers can compare the difference in the price of staple goods.”
The announcement came in the Budget Statement.
Mr Dickinson said: “The Government is working to support start-up and co-operative companies who are looking to supply foods at lower prices by partnering with the Financial Assistance programme to reduce costs not only to taxpayers, but also to the general public.
“This is an innovative way in which money that is already being spent by the Government can be redirected to support competition in Bermuda and reduce food prices.”
Tredick Gorham, the owner of SuperMart, on Front Street, said yesterday that it was the first he had heard of the reporting and app scheme.
Mr Gorham added that the Government already collected information from grocery stores each month.
He said: “The only difference sounds to be we are telling them.”
Mr Gorham added that he suspected grocers would be required to provide prices for a basket of selected items — but that he did not know what items would be included.
He said that the possible benefit to customers of the app would depend on its accuracy in comparing like-for-like products.
Several questions on the proposal were sent to the finance ministry on Friday.
They included whether grocers had been consulted about the plan, what products they would be required to provide prices for, and how often stores would need to report to the Government.
It was also asked which government department would oversee the collection of the information and when the new app was expected to be launched.
The Government did not respond.
Legislation to allow the publication of information on food prices collated by the Government was passed this month.
Wayne Furbert, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, told the House of Assembly that the Statistics Amendment Act would allow the Government to provide people with more information to help inform their decisions.
Mr Furbert said the original Act did not allow information collected by the Department of Statistics that identified “any individual person, business or organisation, to any person” to be released.
Mr Furbert added that the amendment was “specifically talking about grocery stores”.
He added that the change would help the Government fulfil its pledge to cut the cost of living.
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