/ Food & Drink, Shopping

Tesco fined £300k for a misleading special offer!

Strawberry with special offer sticker

Tesco has been fined £300,000 for a misleading special offer on strawberries – our research and your input have helped with this case. Have you spotted any similarly misleading supermarket special offers?

In November 2011 we published an article about misleading special offers – including a Tesco strawberry offer. The discounted strawberries were £2.99 or £1.99 for the 12 weeks we monitored the price, and yet we never managed to buy them at the ‘full price’ of £3.99.

Birmingham Trading Standards were tipped off to the dodgy offer by Daphne Smallman. Trading Standards then asked us for the evidence we had collected. We submitted a witness statement with the receipts and packaging we had collected and Birmingham Trading Standards went on to successfully prosecute Tesco.

The court ruled that the offer was misleading as it ran for 14 weeks, whereas the higher price was available for a much shorter length of time. You can read Tesco’s reaction to the fine in our news story.

A victory for the late Daphne Smallman

Daphne, who tipped off Trading Standards, shared the offer with us on Which? Convo at the time in 2011:

‘I have been purchasing Tesco’s strawberries throughout the summer season at £3.99 – half price £1.99. Irrespective of whether they were ever on offer at £3.99, or for how long, I feel it wrong that at the height of the strawberry season, when supplies were plentiful and prices much lower, they were still stating the basic price to be £3.99. If, at the height of the strawberry season they were still buying at price of £3.99, surely they were buying in the wrong market or they needed to replace their marketing manager!! The price would not have remained at £3.99 when strawberries were in season and plentiful.

‘I did take this matter up with Trading Standards and they were looking into it but don’t know if they got anywhere with it.’

Sadly, Daphne didn’t get to see the victory as she has since passed away. However, a number of you have already paid homage to her in our previous post.

A victory for all UK consumers

We’ll continue to fight on her behalf and all consumers to ensure that special offers really are special.

We hope that Tesco’s hefty fine will act as a wake up call to other supermarkets – they need to commit to simple prices and not mislead shoppers with dodgy promotions.

Have you seen any misleading supermarket special offers recently? What more do you think should be done to ensure supermarkets play fair?


Tesco’s response was:
‘We apologise sincerely for this mistake…….. We sell over 40,000 products in our stores, with thousands on promotion at any one time, but even one mistake is one too many. Since then, to make sure this doesn’t happen again we’ve given colleagues additional training and reminded them of their responsibilities to ensure we always adhere to the guidelines on pricing”.

Was this promotion national or restricted to one store acting on its own initiative? I assume it was widespread and thus dictated by head office, so where was it a mistake? It would be interesting to know the facts.

Well done Which? and Trading Standards.

We need to teach Tesco and other supermarkets to trade honestly, or face larger fines.

I spoke to two members of staff in the local Tesco and they were well aware of the details of this fine. A supervisor said it was well deserved.

JimmyMcG says:
24 August 2013

This sort of thing happens all the time, and is not limited to supermarkets. However, this is the only instance of a retailer being fined for this that I can find online. I imagine that it would be very easy to establish a price watch to catch out retailers, but if so then why is this the first time something like this has been brought to court?

Is it the case that hard evidence like receipts and packaging are essential for a successful prosecution? Or have people really not bothered taking action over this before?