The Queensland Government asked the Commission to monitor and report on the impact of the Container Refund Scheme (the Scheme)—specifically, the impact on prices of beverages sold in Queensland in eligible containers; the impact on competition for beverages and the performance and conduct of beverage manufacturers and retailers; and other specific market impacts on consumers that arose from the commencement of the Scheme.
The terms of reference focus on how scheme costs are passed through to consumers, rather than on the costs themselves. They state that 'the underlying policy aim of this review is to ensure that consumer interests are protected from unjustified pricing behaviour such as retailers and suppliers using the introduction of the scheme to increase prices higher than what would be expected or reasonable'.
- Over the first 12 months of the Scheme's operation, retail prices of non-alcoholic beverages increased by an estimated 9.0 cents per container, on average, due to the Scheme.
- Over the first 12 months of the Scheme's operation, retail prices of alcoholic beverages increased by an estimated 9.9 cents per container, on average, due to the Scheme.
- The estimated average retail price increases attributable to the Scheme in its first year of operation were similar in Brisbane and regional Queensland for both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
- The Scheme appears to increase barriers to entry into the beverage market by imposing costs on new entrants, but it is not possible to draw conclusions about the size of these costs, how they vary with firm size, and the extent to which the structure of the Scheme mitigates these impacts.