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NDP MP calls for Competition Bureau investigation into Loblaw discount reduction

Click to play video: '‘Another manifestation of corporate greed’: Food shoppers angry about inflation, deflating discounts'
‘Another manifestation of corporate greed’: Food shoppers angry about inflation, deflating discounts
As Canadians lament the rising cost of food, now the country's largest grocer is reducing its discounts on items that are about to expire. Abigail Bimman reports on the fresh backlash against Loblaw, and the calls for the Competition Bureau to investigate – Jan 16, 2024

B.C. NDP MP Alistair MacGregor is calling on the Competition Bureau to look into whether there are “possible anti-competitive practices” from Loblaw over its change to discounts on near-expiry items.

“I wish to draw attention to a concerning aspect highlighted in Loblaw’s statement, indicating that this shift in pricing strategy is in alignment with other major grocery retailers,” MacGregor wrote in a letter addressed to the Competition Bureau dated Jan. 17  seen by Global News.

Loblaw confirmed this week that it is reducing its discount on near-expiry items to 30 per cent from a maximum of 50 per cent.

A statement from Loblaw spokesperson Catherine Thomas says the change is being implemented to be more consistent and predictable in pricing.

She also pointed to the potential for more savings through the use of coupons and use of an app called FlashFood. FlashFood is a discount shopping app where customers can buy deeply discounted items based solely on a picture of the food.

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Click to play video: 'Loblaw to end 50-per-cent markdowns on expiring food items'
Loblaw to end 50-per-cent markdowns on expiring food items

However, Sylvain Charlebois, food researcher at Dalhousie University, says this statement implies Loblaw is matching 30 per cent near-expiry discounts offered by competitors.

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“It basically implies that they’re just watching the competition and just matching their competition, which points to a much broader problem in the industry,” he said in a Jan. 16 interview with Global News.

On Jan. 16, the Competition Bureau told Global News it is aware of the change by Loblaw but says it would be inappropriate to comment. Its statement says that the Competition Act mandates that any work it does must be kept confidential until conclusions are reached. This includes whether an investigation exists.

The Competition Bureau confirmed it has received MacGregor’s letter, but is unable to comment further.

For the past few months, Innovation Minister Francois-Phillippe Champagne has been calling on grocers to come up with competitive strategies to stabilize the cost of groceries ahead rising food inflation.

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While the Loblaw discount prompted the letter, MacGregor is calling for a broader look at grocery store pricing practices.

“Given the gravity of these concerns, I kindly request that the Competition Bureau undertake a thorough investigation into the pricing strategies employed by major grocery retailers, with a specific focus on the recent decisions made by Loblaw,” MacGregor wrote.

“The implications of potential anti-competitive behaviour in this crucial sector of our economy are far-reaching, and I believe that a comprehensive inquiry is warranted to ensure the protection of Canadian consumers.”

— with files from The Canadian Press. 

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