The Consumer Council’s SEMEL (Sayeret Moetza Latzarchanut – Consumer Council Patrol) Project summarizes a year of price differentials – between supermarket chains, between different branches, between different cities. All the comparisons, findings and summaries – detailed for you below.
Every week we publish the findings of checks carried out by the Consumer Council Patrol, to find the best value basket of supermarket items. But what does this look like over the course of a whole year? Which are the most expensive and cheapest chains, and in which city is it most worthwhile to do supermarket shopping?
When it comes to shopping for food, the past year was not too encouraging for consumers. Although some new chains have opened, and there have also been some areas with aggressive competition, the bottom line is that the prices of products that we bought did not fall overall. In spite of the better known areas with aggressive competition, such as Modiin, Beit Shemesh or the Krayot, the city that was the cheapest, for almost the whole year, was actually Ashdod. The most expensive, not surprisingly, was Tel Aviv. On a regional basis, the central district was the most expensive, while the best place to buy was in the south of the country.
From the point of view of the average cost of a standard basket of items in each of the chains, no major changes were recorded. Rami Levy remained the cheapest, while Supersol Sheli and Tiv Taam took the most money from us, on average, over the course of the year.
The ability to compare prices, apart from being a basic consumer right, is also an important weapon for consumers in the struggle against the cost of living. Consumers who compare prices not only make their shopping basket cheaper, but also reward businesses that drop prices, and punish those that raise them.
The prices for products that were the focus of 2011’s social protests remained stable throughout last year. However, the manufacturers put up prices on a large number of other products. Hence the Consumer Council’s recommendation to check the most economical places to buy fruits and vegetables, dairy products, and dry and canned goods separately. In that way, consumers can bring down the total price of their shopping basket.
Every week, the Consumer Council Patrol checked hundreds of points of sale. The winning supermarket branch for the year was Rami Levy in Be’er Sheva. At the other end of the list was the Super Baba branch in North Tel Aviv. Overall, there was no major improvement over the year. For this to happen in the coming year, consumers apparently need to continue voting with their feet.
SEMEL (the Consumer Council Patrol) was set up in early 2013, as a team of consumer trustees who serve as additional “eyes” for consumers on the ground. On a weekly basis, SEMEL provides consumers with comparative data on the prices of various consumer products, and helps raise awareness of consumer rights, primarily the right to compare prices. The data is published weekly on the Consumer Council’s website.
In addition, the patrol members report on business behaviors that harm consumers or on consumer wrongs (in the areas of displaying price, indicating products subject to price control, improper advertising, sales or specials that don’t adhere to the rules). Ehud Peleg, CEO of the Israel Consumer Council, believes that SEMEL is important for the continued fight against the cost of living, both from an educational and from a consumer point of view.
Principal Findings over the Patrol’s Period of Activity
o There are significant price differentials between the various supermarket chains, and even between different branches in the same chain.
o There is a gap between the supermarket chains’ own brands (viewed as cheap/expensive) and the actual cost of the average shopping basket. In other words, the chains’ advertising campaigns and the public’s perception do not necessarily represent reality.
o In many places in Israel, differences –totaling hundreds of shekels for a full shopping basket – may exist between two branches of the same supermarket, located only a few hundred meters apart.
o One of the main factors for price reductions in the various supermarket branches is the level of competition in the local area, irrespective of which chain is involved.
o By comparing prices and choosing the most economical supermarkets, a consumer can reduce the cost of food products in the sampled shopping basket by a sum of up to 5,000 shekels annually.
o The consumer public has enormous power to bring down prices, by continuing to compare prices and by choosing to buy at the cheaper supermarkets. Unfortunately, our impression is that the public does not yet use this power to the fullest.
o The Israel Consumer Council has recently launched a service to provide the price comparisons directly to the consumer’s inbox, making it easier for him to compare prices, even before going out to shop.
Israel Consumer Council CEO, Adv. Ehud Peleg, says that “2013 will be remembered as the year in which the power to bring down the price of one’s shopping passed into the hands of the consumer. More than ever before, the Israeli consumer has begun to take prices into account, using various price comparison tools such as the services of the Consumer Council Patrol. The Consumer Council’s proposal – adopted by the Kedmi Committee on Competition in the Food Market – to require supermarkets to report on the prices of their products to a governmental price comparison website, will allow consumers to carry out, on a country-wide basis, what the Consumer Council Patrol does today at 320 points of sale, and to decide – even before leaving home – which store is the most economical place to shop.”