/ Food & Drink, Shopping

Why clearer unit pricing is on my shopping list

In this guest post, Jo Swinson MP explains why she supports Which?’s campaign for clearer unit pricing in supermarkets, and is sponsoring a Private Members’ Bill to encourage the government to take action.

Everyone’s feeling the squeeze at the moment. Prices are going up with pay not keeping up, so making your money go further is more important than ever.

We all want to get the best deals at the supermarket, but it’s not always straightforward. Are those bananas cheaper individually or in a bunch? Is that ‘buy one get one free’ offer really a bargain or would buying just one larger pack be better value?

Let’s get unit pricing in parliament

That’s why I’ve introduced a Bill on unit pricing in parliament, taking up the challenge of Which?’s Price it Right campaign. The Bill will make supermarkets use clear and simple price labels that feature visible and user-friendly unit prices to help people save money.

We should all be able to go into a supermarket and quickly and easily be able to tell which apples, jars of mayonnaise or boxes of cereal are better value for money.

With busy working and family lives, finding time to whizz round the supermarket is enough of a chore without stopping to do mathematical calculations. For people who are trying to shop with excitable young children or for those who find it difficult to see the unit price because it’s often very small, this is so much harder.

No one likes the feeling of having the wool pulled over their eyes, so it’s always annoying when special offers turn out to be nothing more than a marketing ploy – even more so if you only notice this once you’ve got home with the shopping!

Make it clear and consistent

Improving unit pricing is one simple thing that the government can do that will have a big impact on all of us – making it easier to save money on a regular basis.

To help get my Bill through parliament, I’m working with Which? to build a groundswell of support. I’m asking my fellow MPs to join me in writing to the minister responsible for pricing, and telling our constituents about the campaign.

Have you signed the pledge yet? The more people who sign, the more likely it is that we will succeed. I want to make sure supermarkets price it right.

Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from Jo Swinson MP – all opinions expressed here are their own, not necessarily those of Which?

Comments
Member

Isn’t it interesting that noone from any of the supermarkets targeted have seen fit to reply to our complaints?

Member
brat673 says:
24 August 2012

Many of these practices should have been outlawed years ago but our MPs draft the Acts full of loopholes that they were able to drive a double decker bus through. Have we any faith that this Govt has the will to push through reforms?

Member

Yes, you would think that this would have been put right by now. However, MPs do not draft legislation, lawyers do that, so what does it say about the legal profession. As bad as all this may seem, the UK has some of the best consumer protection in the world, even though some of it is poorly drafted. Unfortunately, whilst there has been a political will to force through tons of legislation as the “solution” to the country’s ills of all kinds, this has not been matched with the legal competence to ensure that the legislation is drafted to be completely effective, nor an adequate system for “policing” to ensure its compliance.

Member
JamesB says:
25 August 2012

The other one that confuses me is when items are reduced or half price or say 3 for 2. Is the price per kilo based on the original price or for just 1 item OR is it the based on the new price or multiple items?

Sometimes I also see two very similar products (even the same brand) where one is in £/kg and othe other is £/100g. Its easy to work out shouldn’t be necessary?!

And often shops want to sell items such as meat and vegtables at a set price. So the shop sets all the weights the same (ie lies) and price per kilo. But I want to know which pack has the most stuff in it for the price I’m paying.

Member

It would help me enormously if the price per kg / 100ml EVEN IF STATED AS ” APPROXIMATELY ”
was shown against offers per unit or multiple units. Or, would this be EU illegal?

Member
Numskull says:
14 September 2012

I admire and support you for championing this cause. Price per article and per (dare I say it) pound or kilo. for packed and individual items and price per 100 gms on all items which are tinned, bottled, wrapped and encapsulated would greatly assist in procuring the “best” or “better” buys.

Member

The price per 100 grams is often used for lighter items. I find it easier to compare when the price is per Kg (1000 grams) often there are these 2 methods in the same shop, and I’m fine with manipulating the decimal point – however not everyone is bright enough to do the maths and PRICE PER Kg should be standard for all weights whether in supermarket, convenience store, or market etc.
For liquid measure such as milk please standardise on Litres (even for 4 pint containers).
Unit prices are acceptable for things always sold by number such as paracetamol; but please not for fruit and vegetables. I cannot tell if a melon is good value unless the price is per Kg as I dont carry a caliper around to measure it, nor do I know the density per unit volume.

Education in schools needs to focus more on unit pricing, and how to compare dissimilar packs, and how it is the little numbers per Killogramme per Liter etc. that make your pocket empty quicker.

If children were taught always to compare on these little numbers, there would be more of a hue and cry about this.

In shops I always focus on the unit prices, re-calculate into Kg, or Litre that way I should know the cheapest; EXCEPT that Tesco have been known the get the unit price wrong as they calculate it manually and not on computer. I noticed a 4 Kg bag of rice priced at $4.50, and unit price at £0.01 per Kg. They wouldn’t let me have it for 4p. 😉

Member

In Sainsbury’s today in Chichester a 250g pack of Red Label tea cost £1.25 and the 500g multipack was £2.75. There wasn’t any label to say it was a special offer and last time I bought the tea the larger pack was cheaper per 100g so why has this been reversed? An honest mistake or trying to fool the shoppers?

Member

As the mulitpack clearly states Bigger Pack better value and it isn’t, that Sainsbury’s are in fact misleading the customer and therefore breaking the law. I’m surprised Tesco is changing the wording on anything it sells to remove that claim so they never break it.