However, if Italians feel that their local food retailer is charging unreasonable prices, they can now call on a new service to help them haggle or walk away. Thanks to a short message service (SMS) text system set up jointly by the Italian agriculture ministry and consumer associations, shoppers can check the average price of different foods in northern, central and southern Italy.
Users fire off a message to the SMS Consumatori service, and they get a response showing the average consumer prices in different parts of Italy, as well as wholesale prices.
Interesting — another example of mobiles being used to spread information so markets function more efficiently. We’ve seen several examples of this in Africa, where farmers and fishermen use mobiles to check on market prices and get other information. Reuters is testing a similar mobile market information service in India.
I’m not sure how directly this Italian service will benefit consumers, though it could help keep produce sellers in local markets from over-inflating prices. But I’m interested to see these sorts of services that provide consumers with more information, in particular, about their food, flourish. There have been several services in Japan that use QR codes to provide information on provenance of different food items — something that could become popular given peoples’ concerns over contaminated or GM food, and their desire to eat more organics or humanely raised meat.