/ Food & Drink

A ‘fantastic value’ box of chocolates? I’m not so sure…

As Christmas approaches, it’s sometimes easy to become swept up in the frenzy of present buying without checking details. Have you ever returned an item after a little more research?

This is a guest post by Ian, A Which? member and one of our regulars here on Which? Conversation. All views expressed are Ian’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.

Since our children were little we’ve bought them each a Cadbury Selection box – now as a bit of a fun reminder of their childhood.

But this year I discovered that Cadbury Gifts Direct was selling a Cadbury Bonanza Box which promised ‘approximately 80 Cadbury Treatsize bars’ and sported an advertising image that looked wonderfully enticing.

It was also described as ‘fantastic value’ and ‘comes stuffed with Cadbury Dairy Milk Buttons, Fudge, Chomp, Curly Wurly, Crunchie, Twirl and Flake’ – all of which sounded tempting, although I admit alarms should have sounded about the adjective ‘treatsize’.

Weighing up the options

When the boxes – two at £22.00 each – arrived, the first thing I noticed was their relatively small size. The other was the realisation that ‘treatsize’ meant ‘funsize’ – barely mouthful sized fragments.

Being a Which? member I decided to weigh the contents of each box. There was no overall weight given on the box itself, the outer boxes or the advertising in Amazon, so I used a set of scales to discover the weight of the wrapped sweets themselves was approximately 1400g.

Next, I checked the weights and costs for Cadbury chocolates in the shops. Across five supermarkets and seven products (those in the boxes) the average cost came to roughly £1.00 per 100g of chocolate – which should have meant each box costing around £14.00-£15.00. It was charging £22.00 – 36% more.

So were they right to describe this as ‘fantastic value’?

Which? Legal’s advice

There were some other worrying issues. There was no ‘use by’ date, no weight given, no list of ingredients and the boxes were oddly sealed. All this made me decide to return the items.

When I tried to do that, Cadbury Gifts Direct was happy to accept a return and offer me a full refund, but it did not offer to pay for postage – not insignificant for something weighing around 3kg.

So I contacted Which? Legal. The team told me that some food products don’t have to carry use by dates if they’re ‘confectionery made almost solely of flavoured or coloured sugars’ – but they added:

‘The failure to give a use by date if the product was not mainly sugar could amount to a breach of section 9 of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 as not being of satisfactory quality.’

The Legal team also said that weight is not required for ‘packaged food … usually sold by number that can be clearly seen and easily counted.’

They also told me that:

‘The ‘fantastic value’ line could be a misleading statement under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, under which you may be able to undo the contract and claim damages.’

Following Which? Legal’s advice, I contacted Cadbury Gifts Direct, copying in Amazon. Amazon reacted immediately – within minutes, in fact, and removed the item from sale.

This is a guest post by Ian, A Which? member and one of our regulars here on Which? Conversation. All views expressed are Ian’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.

When asked for comment, Cadbury told the Which? Convo team:

“We’re sorry to hear [the customer’s] comments and have provided [them] with a full refund including postage.

“Our Cadbury Bonanza Box is a popular gift for chocolate lovers, is highly rated by customers and gives people the opportunity to enjoy some of our most popular bars.

“The product weight is 1,112g and is clearly labelled at the point of sale, alongside the best before date which is marked on the gift box.”

Have you spotted products being sold that aren’t quite giving the full picture? Do you think it should be compulsory for retailers to list sizes and weight?

Comments
DerekP says:
7 November 2018

Ian, I must say I’m impressed by your strenuous efforts in dealing with this.

In general, I often find that our various annual gift giving festivals provide many easy opportunities to pay over the odds for stuff regularly available in supermarkets. Usually, I don’t think the higher prices justify the added “gift packaging” but sometimes buying such items seems to be the “least pain” way of discharging obligations.

If the products contain milk, nuts or eggs they could be reported to the Food Standards Agency, Ian: http://allergytraining.food.gov.uk/english/rules-and-legislation/ I expect that they will issue an allergy alert and expect the company to withdraw the products: https://www.food.gov.uk/news-alerts/search/alerts

Certainly within government, and possibly also within local authorities that have been stripped to the bone, there is a feeling that local consumer protection and trading standards services are unnecessary and have been nullified by the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and its subordinate legislation. I think there is also a belief that Citizen’s Advice is a satisfactory instrument of correction for commerce and industry. There is the further delusion that, armed with the internet, the citizens can do it all themselves and obtain adequate outcomes.

It’s no surprise that Trading Standards took no action, on the basis of experience that many of us have had in failing to get action over individual cases. With the recent death of a child as a result of undeclared allergens, I doubt that FSA will ignore you.

I had not heard of Cadburys Chomp so looked it up and you can have 60 x 20p bars for £18.97, with free delivery, apparently saving 2p: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cadbury-Chomp-Bar-Box-60/dp/B005FLD5VK/ref=sr_1_3_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1541668401&sr=8-3&keywords=cadbury+chomp

I don’t understand since the FSA produces regular warnings about foods containing undisclosed allergens. A couple of years ago I was warned by someone working in food hygiene for a city council that under the Regulating our Future initiative, companies are to take responsibility for complying with regulations. Maybe the FSA is not interested in hearing from the public, much in the same way that National Trading Standards works with companies but not the public. It would be good if Which? would investigate.

Reading this convo has made me strongly crave Cadbury’s chocolate… understand that this may not have been the desired effect in writing it, Ian!

Me too Oscar 😋

DerekP says:
8 November 2018

Some of us now think “Cadburys chocolate” is dangerously close to becoming a contradiction in terms – I much prefer Galaxy and other brands.

I can’t actually remember the last time I had Cadburys, it was so long ago, but this article does remind me I do like a bit of chocolate now and again and our snack shelf rarely has more than a couple of packets of crisps and nuts on it.

My favourites used to be Lidl Peanut & Choco minis. A couple of bites and they were gone but they were enough to satisfy that chocolate craving and the rest were safely wrapped up for next time. They stopped the minis and only did the large bars so I stopped buying them.

Big thanks to Ian for writing this for us – was great to work together with him to get this published. I’ve always been curious about these separate companies that include the name of the brand they’re selling in their name. What’s the relationship? Who’s the ultimate benefactor?

Patrick Taylor says:
8 November 2018

This seems to be either white-labelling or passing-off illegally.

White-labelling is quite common and is where a company sells it’s good name to another company who runs the actual service being offered. Notably there was John Lewis who market[ed] a legal product which they subsequently diassociated itself from in terms of legal liability when a Which? subscriber uncovered that the managing agent of the legal service denied a valid claim for assistance in a unfair dismissal claim.

It is highly regrettable that :
a] firms do it at all
b] people really believe that retailers have set up genuine financial departments
c] Which? has never educated its subscribers or the public to the falsity of the arrangements

An example of a very large solicitors firm that offers white labe sevices:
irwinmitchell.com/business/commoditised-services/products-and-services/white-label-services
compareclaimcompanies.co.uk/no-win-no-fee-solicitors/irwin-mitchell-solicitors/

Chocolate does deteriorate and becomes inedible if left too long (It goes white and granular.) so there must be a best before date on it to stop unscrupulous suppliers selling out dated wares.

Wow! Well done, Ian.

Patrick Taylor says:
10 November 2018

Whilst I remember – indeed great work and sleuthing Ian. I look forward to you posting what the FSA say/do.

mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/cadburys-owners-paid-no-corporation-13396542

Before Cadburys was sold to Mondelez it paid £240m in tax in the UK in 2008. Now we get zilcho. Buy Cadburys chocolate or in fact any Mondelez. Nope.

Patrick – If we shouldn’t eat Mondelez products, which other giant multinational manufacturer should we patronise? Mars? Nestlé? Ferrero Rocher? Hershey? We tend to like what we have grown up with.

I have a high regard for Sainsbury’s own-label confectionery, especially their chocolate bars, but I have no idea who makes them.

Patrick Taylor says:
10 November 2018

I guess patronising any multi-national is fraught with potential that you may find out unsavoury practices …

“In Janurary 2017 the website Food Processing published an article about Mondelez International’s payment of $13 million civil penalty to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Mondelez International Inc. to settle violations of federal anti-bribery law in a case involving Mondelez’s Cadbury India division.”

In March 2016 an incident at a Mondelez factory in Cairo led to the death of seven employees. This story was reported by the IUF (Uniting food, farm and hotel workers worldwide). No comment or statement could be found from Mondelez International.”

etc etce

Ethical Consumer does provide a rating for responsible chocolate companies with ASDA scoring as low as is possible and the top two at 18 out of 20. Nestle and Mondelez on 2 are not very much better than Asda.

Lindt and Ritter are the largest of the better scoring midway up the table. Traidcraft, Boojabooja and a variety of other companies are upwards from there. Top two Plamil and Raw Chocolate.

* Quite cheap to subscribe to and allow you to weight your own decision on the evidence offered.

The big brands often sell under brands that are considered more ethical, of better quality or simply perceived to be better for other reasons. This information may not be up to date: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2011/01/the-big-names-behind-your-food-brands-242543/

Patrick Taylor says:
11 November 2018

Excellent link wavechange, thanks for that.