Major supermarket chains in Italy have announced a price freeze on their branded goods until the end of 2004. The new development is a reaction to increased pressure from Italian consumer associations for price reductions on consumer goods. On Thursday 16 September, consumer associations held a national boycott of shopping in supermarkets to protest against high prices.

Available statistics indicate that supermarket purchases account for 42.5 per cent of the disposable income of Italians, with the remaining 57.5 per cent spent on housing, transport, house rent and other expenses.

The new price measures will remain valid only if current inflationary forces, linked to the increase in petroleum prices hence higher distribution costs, remain stable or decrease.

The current consumer price index shows an overall price increase of 2.3 per cent compared to prices in August 2003.