Consumer watchdog Case launches price comparison app for groceries, hawker food

ST VIDEO: TIFFANY FUMIKO TAY
Users of Case's new mobile app can search for an item, find the retailer offering the lowest price and be alerted to any price changes.
Users of Case's new mobile app can search for an item, find the retailer offering the lowest price and be alerted to any price changes. PHOTO: CONSUMERS ASSOCIATION OF SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE - Want to know which supermarket is offering a promotion on your favourite brand of milk, or where to head for the cheapest carrot cake in your area?

A new free mobile app by the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) aims to help consumers stretch their dollar by allowing them to compare prices of groceries and hawker food.

Price Kaki, to be rolled out later in September, will compile prices provided by partner businesses as well as shoppers.

Consumers can earn rewards, such as grocery, movie and transport vouchers, for contributing information on in-store retail prices and promotions they come across, which must be verified with photo evidence.

Users of the app can search for an item, find the retailer offering the lowest price and be alerted to price changes.

They can also look up nearby supermarkets and hawker centres, or even search by dish to find the nearest stalls where they can get their fix, and how much it costs.

The app, which will be available for download on Apple's App Store and Google Play from Sept 28, will be trialled first for businesses in Jurong West, Tampines and Toa Payoh before being extended to the rest of the island in early 2020.

A total of 31 supermarket outlets and 11 hawker centres will be part of the trial. These include the hawker centres at Our Tampines Hub, Toa Payoh West Market and Food Centre, and Boon Lay Place Market and Food Village.

Details were shared by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Trade and Industry Tan Wu Meng during Case's annual fund-raising lunch on Tuesday (Sept 10).

Dr Tan, who announced the development of the app during the debate on his ministry's budget in March, said in a speech at One Farrer Hotel that the crowdsourcing app empowers consumers to share and more easily access price information.

"It is like a network of 'kakis' (friends) to share tips on shopping; exchanging knowledge on the best deals," he said.

For a start, about 3,000 frequently purchased grocery items such as milk, rice and eggs will be listed on Price Kaki, using price information refreshed daily by FairPrice, Giant, Sheng Siong and Prime Supermarket.

Case said it will work with the supermarkets to ensure that the information is up to date.

Case president Lim Biow Chuan said that the non-profit organisation hopes to empower consumers by "equipping them with information so that they can make informed purchasing decisions" and added that it will be launching more such initiatives with the support of the Trade and Industry Ministry.

Mr Melvin Yong, chairman of Case’s consumer empowerment taskforce, told reporters on the sidelines of the event that the app was conceived as a one-stop resource for in-store prices of daily necessities. 

Depending on feedback, the app can eventually extend its reach to include more goods and businesses such as coffeeshops, said Mr Yong, who is an MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC. Price Kaki will also incorporate more languages in future. 

“What we are providing is transparency, and sharing information that is already out there. The supermarkets already monitor each other’s prices so it doesn’t make any difference to their operations, but it makes a lot of difference to consumers because if you want to compare prices, you probably have to visit the stores individually,” he said.

Still, it did take some convincing to get four of the major supermarket chains on board, he noted. 

“Eventually they came to see the benefit for themselves because they want consumers to know the promotions they have.”

Mr Tan Yong Shao, chief executive of Prime Group International, said that an initial concern the Prime Supermarket chain had was a potential “race to the bottom”, where the comparisons would create pressure to drive down prices. 

But other factors like location, service and brand affiliation are likely to trump minor price fluctuations for shoppers, said Mr Tan. 

“I don’t think customers will split their (shopping) basket and go to three different places if it’s a small variation of 10 cents,” he said.