People in New South Wales have been forking out up to 14 cents more for bottles of soft drink and water since the state government launched its controversial container deposit scheme.
A preliminary report by NSW’s pricing regulator released on Tuesday found the price of bottled drinks had increased roughly in line with the costs of the scheme in its first three months.
The “return and earn” scheme offers customers a 10-cent refund for each empty container they return to designated collection points.
But the scheme has had its “teething problems”, Premier Gladys Berejiklian has previously admitted.
“There is no doubt this program had major teething problems and we knew that would be the case,” she said in February after the opposition revealed consumers were out of pocket by $100 million.
Labor claimed the NSW public had paid $110 million in higher beverage prices but only $8.3 million had been returned to consumers.
Ms Berejiklian says the scheme is worth it for the environment’s sake.
But to recover costs of the scheme, retailers including Woolworths and Coca-Cola Amatil raised beverage prices.
According to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal the cost of soft drinks and water rose about 10 to 14 cents per container in December to February, while fruit juice prices increased about six cents.
The cost of beer rose six cents per bottle, and cider went up seven cents.
It’s estimated the average direct cost of the scheme for non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages was about 12 to 15 cents per container to date.
IPART’s chair, Peter Boxell, said it was too early to assess the full impact of the “return and earn” scheme on prices and competition.
But there were already issues emerging, especially for businesses close to NSW’s border which may face a competitive disadvantage.
“The (scheme) creates a potential price differential wherever it is convenient for consumers to purchase container beverages in an adjacent state that does not have a similar scheme,” Dr Boxell said in a statement.
IPART also expressed concern about the fee small suppliers have to pay to register for approval and the short payment term.
The regulator will publish a draft report in September, before presenting a final copy to the NSW Premier in December.