Supermarkets appear to be disregarding government pricing guidelines by using misleading discounts and special offers, according to an investigation.
Consumer group Which? analysed 459 “offers” to find multi-buy deals that cost shoppers more than buying the items separately just one week before, as well as “dubious” discounts and so-called special prices that were in place for most of the year.
Among the misleading deals was Asda’s offer of Wall’s one litre Carte D’Or Strawberry Ice Cream which was labelled as “was £3.50 now £2”, despite selling the product at the lower price for more of the year than the higher price, the watchdog reported.
While Morrisons promoted Cathedral City Mature Cheddar Cheese (350g) as “was £3.50 now £2” for the week of September 17, 2018, when the product had been available for the lower price of £2 the week before.
However, Morrisons said this was incorrect, stating that the cheese was priced at £3.50 for two weeks prior to the offer.
The Government rolled out new guidance to ensure retailers complied with consumer law over pricing practices after Which? lodged a “super complaint” with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) into the issue in 2015. The rules state retailers must ensure information is fair and does not waste time or cause annoyance, disappointment or regret. In addition, information must not cause a consumer to overspend.
Tom Ironside, director of business and regulation at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Supermarkets seek to provide the best value for consumers on the hundreds of thousands of product lines they sell. This is often through promotions and discounts, which can change week to week, even on the same product lines, as retailers seek to cut the cost for shoppers.”
Price rules are being flouted
Which? has revealed it will be reporting its latest findings to the Competition Markets Authority (CMA) after many supermarkets continued to flout the rules.
Natalie Hitchins, Which? head of home products and services, said: “Four years on from our super complaint on misleading pricing practices, many of the big supermarkets are clearly still in the wrong, with numerous examples of dodgy discounts and never-ending offers.
“These retailers must stop tricking shoppers with deceptive deals and spurious special offers. If not, the CMA must intervene to ensure that pricing guidelines are followed.”