The former chairman of Woolworths dismisses allegations of price gouging as “absurd” or “ridiculous.”

Former Woolworths chairman Ralph Waters characterizes accusations against supermarkets as “political theatrics,” asserting it is “absurd” to accuse them of price gouging. Having chaired the nation’s largest supermarket chain from 2011 to 2015, Waters, known for his rarity in giving interviews, criticizes the focus on selling products too cheaply. “I find it appalling,” he tells The Australian Financial Review. “The government seems to oscillate between targeting banks and supermarkets for political diversion.” He emphasizes the intense competitiveness within the industry, dismissing the notion of price gouging as “farcical.” Reflecting on his tenure, Waters underscores the constant vigilance on pricing competitiveness, noting the immediate loss of market share if margins slipped even slightly. With today’s economic challenges, he suggests heightened price sensitivity among consumers. Waters highlights the strategic political stance governments take against large corporations, especially those where consumers spend most of their money. His remarks come amidst heightened scrutiny on supermarkets, with inquiries into pricing, market dominance, and the cost of living. Supermarkets deny allegations of profiteering, while some industry groups claim they are compelled to accept prices below production costs. Both Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci and Coles CEO Leah Weckert addressed these concerns in submissions to the recent Senate inquiry into supermarket pricing led by the Greens.

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