Price increases in supermarkets stabilised last year after a two-year climb, a Consumer Council survey has revealed.
The prices of the 200 top-selling items in three chains - CR Vanguard, Wellcome and ParknShop - rose just 0.9 per cent on average last year, the council's annual supermarket survey found. They went up 5.11 per cent in 2011 and 6.8 per cent in 2012.
"The smaller increase can be attributed to competition among the supermarkets, their pricing strategies and shoppers' changing buying power and tastes," council head Gilly Wong Fung-han said yesterday.
In the consumer watchdog's survey, the items were split into 12 main categories. The average price increased in two-thirds of the categories, with the biggest increase in the prepackaged bread or cake category at 6.8 per cent. The price of a Sara Lee pound cake rose 13.7 per cent.
The price of dairy products or eggs saw the second largest increase at 4.6 per cent. The price of infant formula, which surged 17.3 per cent in 2012, went up by just 4 per cent.
"We are not sure if the stabilisation of infant formula prices has to do with the [two-tin] milk powder quota," Wong said. "What we know is that formula prices had already gone up a lot over the past few years."
She was referring to the restriction introduced in March last year that banned travellers from carrying more than two tins of milk powder out of the city.
While the slowing down of price increases is good news for consumers, the council said it had received more complaints against supermarkets.
Last year, it received 79 complaints about supermarkets' quality of service, more than double the 34 complaints it received in 2012. Complaints about gifts, discounts and pricing also went up. In some cases, people pointed out inaccurate price tags and overly high prices.
In comparison to the council's supermarket survey, the government's inflation indicator, the Consumer Price Index, rose 4.3 per cent last year. This was more than the 4.1 per cent in 2012.
Chinese University economics professor Terence Chong Tai-leung said the CPI took into consideration more factors, including rent and transport costs.
"The supermarket survey focuses mainly on food and daily necessities," he said. "Changes in CPI usually lag behind real-time changes, as the government surveys households in retrospect."
Chong said he expected average rents to show a fall this year, reducing inflationary pressures.