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Tuesday, 4 December 1973
Page: 4204

Mr SPEAKER - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Mr HURFORD - I thank the House. This report on the price of carpet tiles, which has just been tabled, is the third report presented to the Parliament 'by the Joint Committee on Prices. The report shows the results of the Committee's first inquiry into a complaint from the pu'blic. As honourable members know, this Committee has the unique role among parliamentary committees of receiving and investigating complaints from the public, in this case, of course, complaints about prices. The Committee intends to conduct more inquiries into individual complaints in the coming year to complement the larger inquiries such as those into the prices of frozen and canned vegetables, soaps and detergents and building materials which are under way at the present time. The Committee's objectives in conducting these smaller inquiries is to build up a fund of knowledge on pricing practices in Australia as well as to make recommendations concerning specific complaints.

The recommended prices of carpet tiles allow a retail mark-up of at least 50 per cent. The Committee found that this was unnecessarily high. Although the mark-up for carpet tiles is similar to that for conventional carpet, retailers of carpet tiles are able to avoid many of the large overhead costs for storage, display and laying. This high mark-up has resulted from a situation in which recommended price lists arc generally adhered to 'by conventional retailers and where these retailers are in a sufficiently strong position to insist that high mark-ups are embodied in the recommended prices.

In addition to the mark-up, the Committee also paid attention to other factors influencing the price of carpet tiles such as recommended prices, the degree of competition and the importance of manufacturers' discounts. The effect of price competition from discount houses would have a greater influence on the price of carpet tiles purchased from conventional retailers if the conventional retailers' prices were not recommended by the manufacturer. The Committee has recommended that government agencies and consumer groups do their best to make the public aware that by shopping around lower prices can be obtained on many items.

The Committee also found during the inquiry that little was known of the efficiency and productivity of the retail sector. Much research has been done in Australia into efficiency of the manufacturing sector but the tertiary sector has been largely ignored. We will attempt to fill this gap in our knowledge within the limits of our resources. In the new year we intend to turn our attention to the retail sector with particular emphasis on the influence which retailing methods and customs have on retail prices. I commend the report to the House.

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