Is the "anti-inflation quarter" promoted by the government effective? Has it lowered certain prices in supermarkets? While galloping inflation does not seem to want to slow down, the Ministry of the Economy and the consumer association UFC-Que Choisir show their disagreement on the effectiveness of the device.

In an attempt to stem inflation on supermarket shelves – still measured at nearly 16% year-on-year in March – the government had initially tried to build an "anti-inflation basket" to compare prices between brands. Faced with opposition from companies, the operation had become an "anti-inflation quarter", three months from March 15 during which supermarkets committed to sell a selection of products at the "lowest possible price", a formula leaving them a great deal of freedom of maneuver.

A drop of "13%"?

On May 10, the Minister Delegate for Trade Olivia Grégoire said that, "on average for seven weeks, the prices of products in the anti-inflation quarter have fallen by 13% in the basket," claiming to rely on figures from the Suppression of Fraud (DGCCRF).

His office later told AFP that this figure corresponded to "the evolution of prices" between the week of March 6 and that of April 24 "for the products of the anti-inflation quarter of the Auchan, Carrefour hyper and supermarkets, Casino, Franprix, Système U and Cora brands". But on Monday, the influential consumer association UFC-Que Choisir assured that "unfortunately, this statement is false".

Increases at some brands

The association says it has "reviewed the price changes of a large sample of products in anti-inflation baskets (between 50 and 150 references depending on the brand), between March 23 and May 10, for the five brands" participating in the operation. Results: average increase of 1.5% at Intermarché, 1.4% at Casino, 1% at Système U, stability at Carrefour and slight decline at Auchan, 0.3%.

Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire, interviewed on BFMTV and RMC, denounced "a dishonest methodology", the UFC-Que Choisir taking as a basis of comparison on March 23, "after the beginning of the operation", he lamented. Olivia Grégoire's office insists that the "anti-inflation quarter" was "designed to stop prices from rising or even fall from their pre-implementation level."

An inadequate response to inflation?

Grégory Caret, director of the Consumer Observatory at UFC-Que Choisir, defended himself: "We reacted to Olivia Grégoire's statement evoking the decline over the last seven weeks," hence the price comparison starting on March 23. "We can do the same exercise since March 1, we find the same results with the exception of the Casino brand which actually lowered its prices at that time," he says. A price reduction that is part of a global reorientation of the brand's commercial policy.

Grégory Caret also believes that the operation is "probably not the appropriate response to inflation", baskets containing "few products and not necessarily those you are used to putting in your basket". The government, which is trying in parallel to push the major food manufacturers to renegotiate downwards the prices of their production with supermarkets, has already announced that it wants to extend beyond June 15 the "anti-inflation quarter", in a form that remains to be determined.

  • Economy
  • Inflation
  • Purchasing power
  • Crossroads
  • Intermarché
  • Minister of the Economy
  • Supermarket