Ever since coming into office, the Macri administration has been at odds with supermarket chains. It accuses them of largely contributing to inflation by unilaterally jacking up prices, and trying to take advantage of consumers by resorting to any dirty trick in the book.

The accusation has turned into action, and yesterday the Ministry of Production announced that during the first months of the year it fined large supermarket chains in the City and Province of Buenos Aires alone for over AR $18 million. In a press release, the ministry informed that its officials inspected 323 supermarkets, mostly detecting infractions to two laws destined to protect consumers: the so-called “Consumers’ Protection Law” (no surprise there) and the “Commercial Loyalty Law.”

Why were supermarkets fined?

  • Inaccurately displaying products’ prices
  • Having inaccurate scales used to weight fruits, vegetables and meat — as they charge per kilo.
  • The fact that packaged goods didn’t have the amount of product that they claimed to have.
  • And not advertising the state-sponsored Precios Cuidados plan, which subsidies certain products for regular consumption.

Supermarket representatives told Cronista that they have already paid most of the fines, as the new “Commercial Loyalty” law — sanctioned in 2014 — establishes that companies must pay first and, if they consider it legitimate, appeal afterwards. Carrefour, Cencosud (which owns, Disco, Jumbo and Vea), Día, Coto, Walmart, Makro, Josimar and La Anónima were some of the chains that the Ministry of Production determined were breaking the rules.

Consumers share this stance. According to the ministry’s press release, the National Direction of Consumers’ Defense received 1,265 formal complaints against supermarkets during the first five months of the year. Under the #SuperVacíos hashtag (Empty Supermarkets), citizens’ organizations boycotted the companies by collectively not purchasing goods at supermarkets on a particular day last year.

According to the Indec statistics agency, supermarkets’ billing went up by 10.6 percent this march, compared to last year’s numbers. But considering that the inflation rate for the same period was of over 30 percent, this actually means a steep drop in real profit.