/ 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?