/ Food & Drink, Shopping

Our super-complaint on dodgy supermarket pricing practices

Put an end to misleading pricing

From dodgy multi-buys to shrinking products – it’s time to shelve misleading supermarket pricing tactics for good. That’s why we’ve deployed one of our most powerful legal weapons – a super-complaint.

We’ve been alerting retailers to misleading pricing tactics for the last seven years, and yet dodgy offers still remain on supermarket shelves.

Many retailers are creating the illusion of savings that don’t exist, which in turn mislead people into buying products they may not have chosen if they knew the full facts.

Our supermarket pricing super-complaint

Enough is enough. We’re now using one of the most powerful legal weapons in our armoury – a super-complaint – to demand action from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

Which? has legal powers under the Enterprise Act 2002 to formally raise matters that may be significantly harming consumers’ interests with regulators. It’s a power we only use after a great deal of work to exhaust every other possible route to change businesses practices. The CMA now has 90 days to respond to our super-complaint (PDF 4.7Mb).

Millions lost to dodgy offers

With £115bn spent on groceries and toiletries in 2013, we could be collectively losing out to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds, even if only a very small proportion of offers are misleading. Some of the dodgy pricing practices we’ve raised with the CMA include:

  • Confusing and misleading special offers.
  • A lack of easily comparable prices because of the way unit pricing is being done.
  • Shrinking pack sizes without any corresponding price reduction.

What’s more, we’re concerned about how supermarket price matching works in the context of these dodgy pricing practices.

The cumulative impact of all these different pricing tactics means it’s virtually impossible for you to know whether you’re getting a fair deal. This is particularly true when prices vary frequently, when you’re in a rush or if you’re buying numerous items of relatively low value.

We want an end to misleading pricing tactics and for all retailers to use fair pricing that people can trust. If you agree, please sign our petition. And if you’ve spotted any pricing tactics that really wind you up, share them in the comments below.


This should apply to the Wembley car park operator, change prices at last minute, without notice but still advertising cheaper rates online, you don’t know you are being ripped off until you pay on exit, they change the tariffs that fast the gate men get mixed up to what small tariff table to show you when you complain, even when. I emailed the company they emailed me yet a different one again, but still refused a refund or partial after I proved I met one of the refund conditions

Dan Main says:
23 December 2015

my favourite, spotted in Morrisons. £1 for 200g of mini portobello, or £1 for 250g chestnut mushrooms. same product, same price, smaller packaging. https://twitter.com/alifeinfood/status/402824181001113600

Tesco have changed the delicatessen olive pots by about 20% and when challenged stated it was to do with the lids but the volume has changed dramatically. I had been monitoring weight of olives in the old pots and now the new ones and the difference is almost 20%

Levity says:
19 January 2016

At Tesco today I noticed Radox shower gel on ‘half-price’ offer at 95p instead of the previous price of £1-90. This did not seem right to me so a quick check on the ASDA website showed that their normal price is 90p. So Tesco were selling at a higher price than their competitor but claiming it was half-price. I later wondered, if I had bought one, would they have refunded the 5p at the till under their brand match scheme? Similarly I noticed that four-packs of Branston Baked Beans were on ‘half-price’ offer at £1-27 instead of £2-55 whereas they are normally £1-78 at ASDA. I took photos of the shelf labels and can forward them it that would be useful.

It’s not just the pocket that suffers. It’s also your health. Here is a very common occurrence. You buy a small salad, a drink and some crisps say, as part of a “meal deal”. Before you buy you check the “traffic lights” for fat, salt and sugar content and it’s green lights all the way. “Hurrah! It’s healthy”, you think. You assume that this constitutes ONE meal. Not two, or three, or ten for that matter. (Can you see where I’m going with this?) You eat it all for your lunch. While you’re munching, you peruse the packaging more closely and realise that the “traffic lights” apply to HALF a salad. So it turns out that you have eaten twice the fat, salt and sugar you thought you were. The whole idea behind the “traffic light” system is that you can quickly see what you’re eating at a glance, not so that you can see what you could be eating if you starve yourself and eat half of a tiny salad, or even space it out over a week. And let me just say for the sake of comparison that I am not overweight or a big eater (5’3″ and 8 stone) so I don’t think my perspective is skewed in any way. They might just as well tell you what a 10th of a doughnut contains – that would make it sound really healthy!

I shopped at Tesco this morning. They were offering Bahlsen Schoko Leibnitz biscuitsat £1–fair enough, they’ve been £1 at the Co-op for momnths (Mind, you can buy what I think are exacrtly the same biscuits under a different name at Aldi for 75p.) My complaint is that Tesco were advertising the price of £1 as “49 p off £1 49p”. They’ve also been offerimg Isla Negra wines at a ‘half price’ which is only 50 p less than all the local shops are selling at–that’s been going on for months now and is probably over. The so-called £1 49p quote for SchokoLeibnitz is definitely new though.

Sainsbury’s Crumpets x8 £0.50/unit £0.16/100g
Sainsbury’s Crumpets, Basics x6 £0.40/unit £0.06/ea

notice how the normal crumpets are priced per 100g and the value basics range are priced per crumpet instead. Take 6 of the normal crumpets and the price works out 2.5p cheaper than the “value”, basics range. I’m sure they didn’t do the different value systems to confuse anyone. Hmmm…….

I have just opened a new 340gm tub of Marvel dried milk and found that the tub is just over half full, the contents of the new full tub would fit in the empty 198gm tub that I was about to put in the recycling bin. What a scam, shame on Premier Foods for making it look like I was getting more for my money. I am sure that the contents will weigh 340gm but the hugely oversized container wastes material and implies that purchasers are getting more contents than they really are. The contents can’t settle and reduce in volume by around 40%.

Watch carefully the Tesco Brand Guarantee savings on 10 items or more on your bill.
They compare prices of all items that they can compare with other supermarkets and give you back the difference if less but deduct if any more.
Example: On 7/11/16 Tesco Baileys £15.00, Asda £12.00, therefore £3.00 saving. Robinsons Concentrated squash on offer £1.87, Asda £2.50 . On bill difference £0.63 deducted from £3.00 giving a saving of £2.37 saving.
Tesco pocket the £0.63 by ripping you off!
If you bought more than one Squash the £3.00 would be reduced by £0.63 each and could possible leave you with a positive extra charge.
Tesco are very clever at how “every little helps” them!

Here is a link to recently published guidance to businesses:

Every little helps but I don’t think we will see the end of the games played by supermarkets. I feel that urgent action is needed to end various practices that make it difficult or impossible to discover the unit price of goods.

It is interesting to note what a consumer is regarded as for the regulations:
Average consumer
The material characteristics of an average consumer should be considered ‘including his being reasonably well informed, reasonably observant and circumspect.’
European case law suggests that social, cultural and linguistic factors should also be taken into

Regarding certain deals the following seems fair and reasonable and we should judge offers against this sort of criterion.
Volume offers are price promotions that aim to demonstrate good value by reference to the volume, weight or amount of the product purchased, or the purchase of a combination of different products.
You should not use this type of price promotion unless the consumer is genuinely getting better value because of the offer. Care must be taken to ensure that any volume offer is not made to be unfair because better value was being offered before the volume promotion or for the same product elsewhere in your business.
The risk of these price promotions being unfair is increased if they are not easy to understand. You must ensure that the price promotion provides all of the material information that the consumer needs to understand it and that this information is provided in a clear, intelligible, unambiguous and timely manner. You should not take advantage of the fact that many consumers will not calculate for themselves whether your price promotion actually offers better value – for example, the price of a combination offer should be cheaper than the total cost of buying the same items separately.”

malcolm greenwood says:
20 April 2017

what about the supermarkets that leave old pricing labels on the shelves and then you dont know the price of the item you have bought till you get to the checkout all because the management /staff cant be bothered to replace the old price label of product that was on sale previously The supermarkets should be fined for this practice starting with the Rooley lane ASDA as it is the worst i have ever encountered