Consumer-citizens and Competition Policy in the Era of Supermarketisation
24 Pages Posted: 9 Mar 2020
Date Written: March 9, 2020
There is a burgeoning body of consumer scholarship that identifies a consumer-citizen identity, reconstructing the consumer as a social and political actor and not just an economic actor. In food systems dominated by supermarkets, some hail the coming of the consumer-citizen as an antidote to the power of large retailers. Drawing on an empirical study of the Australian grocery sector, this paper interrogates the claim that consumer-citizenry will fulfil this promise. It emphasises the need for tempering any optimism in this regard, taking account of the impact of socio-economic constraints facing most consumers, and for which the supermarkets must be held in part responsible. The paper explores the role of government in supporting citizen-inspired consumer concerns and argues that the prevailing adherence to a neo-liberal paradigm of managing markets explains why thus far the state has failed in providing this support. Using a focus on competition regulation, the paper concludes that market-related policies need to be sensitive to the social effects of concentration, on inequality in particular, and that in the face of substantial private economic power, faith in self-regulation and self-correcting markets is misplaced.
Keywords: supermarkets, Australia, competition law
JEL Classification: K00, K29
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation