/ 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.

dave says:
20 May 2015

shopped at Asda couple of weeks ago and bought18 Andrex toilet rolls £6.84 any one else noticed good deal but when i got home i put one on top of existing andrex toilet roll i had left and guess what yep a lot smaller,

Peter Payne says:
21 May 2015

We are looking for an Oak Sideboard and visited Oak Furniture Land on the 3rd May, in store we were informed that the “Tokyo Natural Solid Oak Large Sideboard” was on sale at £449 reduced from £699, and would be increasing in price after the Bank Holiday. As we were only looking we chose not to purchase and left. Subsequently we have been tracking the item on there website, and each week its been “on-sale” at exactly the same price and always ending “On Sunday” or in “Two Days”.

It’s ridiculous that this blatant miss representation is allowed

I think that Miss Representaion has been misrepresented here, don’t you think?

acmp says:
22 May 2015

It is very annoying that when a product is in a multi buy, say 2 bottles of pop for a discount, they don’t then tell you the effective unit price, say 8p/100ml for the offer. It makes comparing the ‘offer’ against regular priced products, or other offers, very difficult. Surely as they have to tell you the unit prices for regular items they should also have to state it for offers.

I suspect they do not offer offer unit price so it can’t be easily compared.

@acmp, Blame the people who worded the Price Marking order 2004. I posted a link to a councils attempt at explaining it in English on page 1. There’s a special sections for promotions and having a unit is basically optional, so you guessed it, very few bother to do it , presumably as the offers these days aren’t that special.

acmp says:
23 May 2015

@willam, thanks for that. Let’s hope the this campaign gets some of the issues sorted out. For the time being I’ll be that guy with his calculator out punching numbers to get the most appropriate deal 🙂

JayDal says:
24 May 2015



Guess which one is overpriced, over reduced and ALWAYS out of stock…

I filed a report online to Advertising Standards Agency more than 3 months ago, and have never heard a word back from them.

JayDal says:
24 May 2015
David says:
24 May 2015

This isn’t a problem for this household any more. After years of tolerating faked prices and discounts in Tesco et al we’ve switched almost entirely to Aldi, with just the occasional Waitrose sweep-up for anything we can’t get there – and that’s not a lot.

Aldi doesn’t fake its pricing, it’s a lot cheaper anyway, the quality’s every bit as good – and shopping there takes a fraction of the time it used to take.

The dishonest practices of the major supermarkets have driven us away, and I can’t now shop in Tesco without thinking how incredibly expensive everything is by comparison with Aldi or Lidl. We’re saving at least 30% every week – and a lot of time!

Fed up mother says:
25 May 2015

Good for you and I think I will follow you. I am fed up with these big supermarkets thinking that we the public are stupid. Without our money they will lose sales and hopefully eventually close down. We need honest retailers that balance honest profit with honest sales . We all know things are not cheap and we have to pay a price but stop ripping us off!!!

Jay says:
24 May 2015

I happened to be in a sell known supermarket in exeter, where they were selling help the heroe fresh eggs. They were in a basket with a sign behind it stating £1. That £1 was in relation to something that was in the shelf at the end if the isle!! The eggs were actually £1:90?! Clever, but not clever enough!!

Gina says:
24 May 2015

I shop occasionally in B&M as they have the biggest selection of pet foods but every time I do I am charged the wrong price for at least one item. They have the incorrect price in front of the goods. Is this how they manage to keep prices low? They think most customers won’t check their receopt?

Fed up mother says:
25 May 2015

I totally agree. The amount of times I have been in Tesco and the price displayed on the shelf is lower than the actual price at the till. It’s only if u watch every item tht is scanned that you can pick it up…the amount of times I have gone home and looked at my receipt and have got really cross as I have been charged incorrectly but 9 times out of 10 I have not got the time to go back and dispute it. By doing this I bet Tesco is making millions

“If you like a lot of chocolate on your biscuit join our club’ – little jingle that you may recognise. Now look at them, chocolate must have been sprayed on. Company changed hands. Same name, seemingly same product but in reality it’s very, very much different. Living on a reputation that has long since passed. Cadburys chocolate, another one, less and less chocolate and it has absolutely nothing to do with trying to keep the masses more healthy, more to do with bumping up the profits!

RobM, and its not real chocolate – chocolate flavoured coating more like. P-p-p-pick up a Penguin – they are now baby birds, and Wagon Wheels? Trades description act violation. More like Lego wheels. Mars bars – well it goes on. At least it might help fight obesity.

Not if people eat twice as many to compensate!

Like the p-pick up a penguin

Trebor says:
25 May 2015

I went to Dunelm to buy new bedding as they have a sale on. The signs all around the bedding department say ‘20% off all’ but when I got to the checkout, the items I wanted were not discounted.

Ian says:
25 May 2015

Tesco stores often have a section for “Reduced for quick sale” – but watch out. They may have (typically) meat at £4 a pack, buy 3 for £10 – so they are really prepared to sell the packs at £3.33 each. If one of these packs get such that the ‘best before date’ is today, they may reduce the price from £4 to £3.50 – so it is not really such a bargain.

Meat has a ‘use by’ rather than ‘best before’ date – an important difference. The price reduction on the morning of the ‘use by’ date may be small, as you suggest. Towards the end of the day, the reduction may become much greater because the shop cannot sell the product the following day.

It is safe to freeze meat that is at its ‘use by’ date and hopefully that’s what people who fill their baskets with this food are planning to do. Obviously freezing and thawing results in some loss of quality.

jaydal says:
26 May 2015

Best freezing large joints/items. Smaller cuts degrade with freezing, so stock up on joints etc, I got 4 massive pork joints for £1 each reduced from £20 each. I simply cut them into 4 smaller joints to feed 3-4 portions and individually bagged and froze them, all 16 of them.

Best thing to do with joints is defrost over night and slow cooker them on low/med for double the oven time as a minimum and cut or shred them, never know they were frozen. 🙂

And yes one drawer in my freezer is now he pork drawer 😀

NEW! Smaller choc bars, less chocolate and more money! Now that’s a slogan that could clear the shelves! Err… Sorry, I err… I am a bit confused, sorry, sorry…..

Fed up mother says:
25 May 2015

I bought packs of Mars from asda 4 in a pack for 1.00. Thought oh good reasonably priced….then when they were delivered they were snack size. Why do they just not tell us that is what they doing then we can make our own choice and it is nothing to do with reducing obesity it making us a healthier nation. It’s all to do with profit

Natwise says:
25 May 2015

I always make it a point to read the unit price on big items such as toilet rolls ,washing powdersetc for working out quickly any offers per roll or 100gms ,same hing with food items

The problem we are facing now is that manufacturers are wise to the fact that we check the unit prices so they are degrading the product in some way – toilet rolls are narrower, liquid goods have a higher dilution rate [i.e. less concentrated so you need to use more], and powdered goods and things sold by volume can be bulked out with cheaper materials [a modern form of adulteration]. This goes on over and above the less-for-more tactics many people have reported here.

David redpath says:
26 May 2015

Is anyone else concerned that Sainsbury appear to be offering far more multiple buys than before. This is particularly apparent in the fresh fruit and veg department 2 packs for considerably cheaper than twice the price of one or three for two. As old age pensioners we can’t use two or three packs of fresh fruit in a week and do object to subsidising those who can.
David Redpath

jaydal says:
27 May 2015

Everyone as a consumer subsidies shareholders.

Our tax pays the farmers to produce foods in the UK, then we pay suppliers… The food chain is a double tax as a minimum.

Just look at the price of UK potatoes.

Alastair says:
26 May 2015

Sainsbury’s used to sell a range of shampoo in 1 litre bottles for £1.25. Now they sell it in half-litre bottles for 80p – is a rise of 28%. How come the government are telling us that prices are falling, and why hasn’t anyone told Sainsbury’s?

For over a decade I have been using the German supermarkets becase they offer goof products at a good price, farm shops, and Waitrose.

It has been a deliberate choice to boycott he major supermarket chains as they are not to be trusted and intrinically expensive. Tescopoly.org deserves a particular mention as it highlighted the deliberate Tesco policy of saturating towns to establish a dominant situation using its small stores and major stores.

And feeding its share price was expensive:
“From 2010 to 2013 Tesco raised prices by 4.6% a year while Asda, now its closest competitor, lifted them by 2.4%, according to Bernstein, an equity-research firm. Tesco charges 4-5% more for branded goods than Asda. Barrages of “price drops” and salvoes of coupons did not fool consumers. And even with its smartened-up stores, Tesco lacks the reputation for service and quality that would justify its higher prices.” Economist 26.6.2014

Paul says:
27 May 2015

Tesco deserves a difficult year or so to ponder its fortunes.

Just before the dodgy accounting thing broke I was in a Tesco and on leaving the check out was asked if I would take part in a survey.

I agreed on condition that it was one where I could give genuine feedback.

It went on and on and it was clear that there was little to no opportunity for genuine feedback but just a series of multiple choice answers which allowed me to give the management wonks a variety of descriptions of their general wonderfulness. Which they were then clearly going to present to their uber bosses as a sign of how well they were doing in meeting customer needs they had identified themselves.

Such an exercise in smugness. I stopped the survey after a few minutes and told them what I thought, which wasn’t of course passed on. Serves them right.

Peter Behrend says:
27 May 2015

Uniqlo are currently selling seamless men’s briefs (and other underwear) at £4.95 each, but they are also offering a special “multibuy” of 2 for £9.90 – a massive saving of £0.00. http://www.uniqlo.com/uk/store/goods/130456 I suppose it’s a miracle they’re not actually more expensive!

Companies deserve to be named and shamed for their shoddy (and in many cases shady) pricing policies.

I pointed out the discrepancy in store today, and was met with a knowing smile and the comment that “yes, they’re the same price”.

Alison says:
28 May 2015

What matters to me is the price to be paid on the day, and that the unit cost is easily seen, in a standard format to enable comparison with competitive products. Some prepackaged goods don’t show the unit cost to compare with unpackaged versions. I certainly don’t assume that higher-priced goods are automatically ‘superior’!

I object in general to multibuy offers, and the time it so often takes to work out which products are included, and it’s very easy even then to get this wrong, and find when you get home that you’ve missed out. Unless I really need it, I tend to avoid buying a product on a multibuy offer if I don’t want the number they insist you buy.

A label stating’ 20% off’, ‘50% off’ etc on each package would allow customers to decide quickly how many of a product they want to buy on the day, while the offer is on, and would not penalise those who only need one, and have nowhere to store the extras, or cannot use them before they expire. If you buy extra on one day, you won’t buy another the next time, so shops only benefit if customers buy extra and waste goods.

greg says:
28 May 2015

If you think the supermarkets are bad try working in the home improvement market were people are decived out of Thousads of pounds as the belive they are buying Kitchens and Bathrooms.
There are national companys out there who advertise at trade price, when you could get a better price from a showroom on like for like product.
Some of these national companys have there own retail chains with the alleged trade price.
They offer the same product via a diffrent catolog to the rest of the industry.
We just took an order for a bathroom Where the full retail inc vat was £1,980 The trade price from this supplier was qouted to the customer At £4,400 but at trade was £2,220 inc vat £240 more expensive than there own retail price to the rest of the industry.

It needs stopping as 100s of people are being cheated