/ Food & Drink, Shopping

We’re writing to supermarkets about misleading pricing tactics

Put an end to misleading pricing

A couple of weeks ago we reported on Convo the result of an inquiry into misleading and unclear pricing in supermarkets. We’d now like to hear from the supermarkets what they’ll do to tackle these problems.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigated after we made a super-complaint on misleading pricing tactics.

Supermarkets now face impending regulation changes, angry customers and potential enforcement action.

Now that the CMA has published its concerns, the supermarkets must tackle the problem head on.

After giving them time to digest the investigation’s findings, we’ve written to the people at the top – the supermarket CEOs – encouraging them to tell us what they will be doing to clean up their act.

We want them to support measures to strengthen the rules on what qualifies as a special offer. Measures that would make special offers more meaningful for you, create a level playing field and drive genuine competition.

This is a clear opportunity for supermarkets to improve their image and win back your trust – and we want them to take it.

The problem that won’t go away

We showed the CMA examples of dodgy multi-buys, shrinking products and exaggerated discounts uncovered over a seven -year period. Many of the examples we gave were from Convo readers.

The CMA found hundreds of potentially misleading prices on the shelves of five supermarkets. It concluded that unit pricing needs to be clearer so shoppers can use it effectively to compare similar products.

And it was concerned too about ‘was/now’ offers where discount prices were used for longer than the original price.

We’ve now called on the supermarkets CEOs to find solutions to dodgy offers and to show they really do understand your frustrations as customers.

With more than 165,000 people now backing our campaign and the CMA considering enforcement action, it’s time for the supermarkets to tell customers what they will do to solve this problem. Let’s hear their plan.

Stephen Clayforth says:
3 August 2015

At our local ASDA and Morrisons it is impossible to compare similar products for value as some are marked at ‘per 100g’, some at ‘per Kg’, and yet others at ‘per unit’! And this is on products that are identical apart from different manufacturers and their own brands. And to add to the confusion they are all in similar packaging but have different weights but only differing by a few grams making comparisons virtually impossible.

Also why does ASDA have four of their own lines? One is marked as ‘ASDA Chosen by You’, one is ‘ASDA Extra Special’, one is ASDA own brand and the other is ‘ASDA Smarprice’. All of these lines are usually identical, especially in the matter of food stuffs, the main difference is price. Again these are packaged in slightly differing weights to make comparisons extremely difficult.

As shoppers we should not be expected to be either mathematical geniuses nor should we have to carry a calculator round with us just to compare prices and value for money!


Sainsbury’s and Tesco have three grades for their own-label products. The ‘basic’ level is often acceptable but the ‘standard’ and ‘premium’ grades play to the psychology of people who want a product that looks more refined or has smarter presentation. Tesco in particular seem to try to mimic M&S. To differentiate them from the basic range, the higher-grade products often have a tiny amount of some extra ingredient to kid you that it is a superior product, whether you want that – or can even taste it – is irrelevant: it adds a smidgeon to the production cost but 10% or more to the selling price.

On its own, perhaps a ‘Taste the Difference’ pork sausage is a better banger, but when it’s served up with bacon and eggs, mushrooms and fried onions, and with Worcestershire sauce all over it, the subtle flavour sensation is possibly imperceptible and the higher cost not worth it.

Malcolm says:
3 August 2015

I get sick of Lidl and Aldi putting their prices above products sometimes when in a rush I see a price below the item and get it only to realize it was dearer as it was the price above I have fallen for this tactic of theirs numerous times

Lev says:
3 August 2015

I agree!!! I thought I was the only one noticing this, but it looks I’m not the only one falling by this small mean ‘trick’!!

Virginia Warwick says:
3 August 2015

Yes like many before me I have made the same mistake and even had an heated debate with one of Lidl’s employees when he took me to the shelf in question and point to the label above the product. I felt an idiot!


Hi Virginia, perhaps the supermarkets here can be persuaded to do what shops do in Spain. Put a little arrow at the front edge of the shelf pointing up or down indicating what the price relates to.

TelMeUK says:
3 August 2015

That’s a good idea Valencian, I’m always doing it but I’m thick skinned and say no if the price is more than I thought, even if I want it. Clarity is the answer!

lesley says:
5 August 2015

omg I’m so sick of these supermarkets with this stupid petty trickery on us loyal customers, costing us a small fortune and giving them massive profits in the meantime.

Steven Durham says:
3 August 2015