/ Money, Shopping

Win! Government crackdown on misleading supermarket pricing

Misleading supermarket pricing

A real breakthrough was delivered today for our campaign against misleading pricing tactics – the Government has come out in support of our super-complaint. Now we need to make sure it takes action.

As many of you will know, back in April we used our legal powers to submit a super-complaint to the Competition and Markets Authority regarding a host of dodgy practices we’d found in the grocery sector.

Since then, our campaign to put an end to misleading supermarket pricing has gained real momentum. Over 200,000 people have backed us and the CMA has made a series of recommendations to stop the problems we found. Problems including dodgy multi-buys, shrinking products and exaggerated discounts.

Government plans must be put into action

Today the Government accepted all of those recommendations and has announced plans to strengthen the rules around supermarket pricing.

Consumer minister Nick Boles said:

‘Shoppers need to be able to get the best deal and make comparisons easily so we will look at how we can make information on price as clear and as simple as possible.’

This is a significant step forward, but we’ll now be keeping a close eye on things. We want to see that these changes are implemented without delay to ensure that you’re no longer subjected to misleading pricing practices.

What do you want from supermarkets?

Thank you to everyone who has supported our campaign so far – it has helped us get a step closer to stopping dodgy deals lining the shelves of supermarket aisles. There’s still work to be done and we’ll be taking every opportunity to feed in to these new rules and make sure they work for us all.

What would you like to see from the Government to improve supermarket pricing? Please let us know below – and do continue to tell us about any examples of misleading supermarket pricing you have found…

Useful links

Government response to the CMA’s report on the super-complaint by Which?

The Price Fly says:
17 October 2015

I’ve noticed the Co-op half price offers are not as half price as they seem! Currently they state their retail price for Comfort Intense Fabric Conditioner:’ Was £3.99, now £1.99, half price, 570ml, until
3.11.’ ha ha! go on my supermarket.com and the other supermarkets show their standard retail price for the same product at between £3.00 and £3.50!!!
I thought what I used to know as ‘drop closing’ by inflating the starting price was illegal?
Is this maybe why Co-op aren’t on mysupermarket.com because it would expose this practice on some of their offers. Must Tweet it and see if they panic……………………………………..

I get cross when I see the offers that say “spend £40 and get a saving” I am a pensioner who lives alone so do not spend £40 therefore I am always a loser, why do we never see offers for pensioners only for folks who spend a lot?

Over a period of many years there has been public concerns over the general level of UK Supermarket prices. In response there have been one or two government ‘investigations’. Each time the official verdict has been that pricing is reasonable. BUT I understand that a number of major players in the market make significant contributions to the major political parties. Is it surprising the politicians are find no reason to criticize such financial supporters. Prices must surely include an element related to these political donations which members of the public might well resent but cannot avoid. until hey presto along come foreign players in the market – Messrs Aldi and Lidl. This question of political donation might be an area for the CA to explore.

Julian says:
17 October 2015

Please can the supermarkets have the “courtesy” and honesty to ensure that the label on the front of the shelf actually relates to the item directly behind it on the shelf. This particularly is a problem in their smaller “local” stores in my experience. Also, apart from Sainsbury’s, can the other supermarkets please have clearer labelling of the items included in their sandwich meal deals on the packaging itself, and better posters/signs explaining exactly which items are included in such deals? If Sainsbury’s can get it right, then all the others should be able to, too!

Sometimes it is the fault of customers inspecting goods and placing them back on the wrong shelf or place on the shelf. But I agree with you that supermarkets could do a lot better. I try and report errors and have occasionally moved incorrectly placed shelf labels to the right place.

I’m back in the uk after 11 years in Vancouver BC. I’m disgusted at the monopoly and cartel behaviors being run by the supermarkets.
What happened to select your own loose groceries and pay by
the pound, seems fair to me and from an ecological point of view stop wrapping everything in plastic!

Dave M says:
17 October 2015

What happened to honesty is the best policy!!! but I guess from politicians down to Big business dishonesty rules!!!

colin says:
17 October 2015

you are not far wrong dave m

I’d also like to see the end of multi-buys as a it would stop a lot of waste. Often single people or couples feel discriminated against as you cannot purchase less items at the same pricead but at the same time you d not want to pay the higher price. A good example of this is Asda free range “Happy eggs” £1.95 for 6 or £2 for 12, who is seriously not going to buy the 12?

I think supermarkets owe society a LOT more than dodgy special offer pricing designed more to hoodwink a little, than give genuine price reduction! The food supply should not primarily be a profit making business for the few, the supermarkets should plough a percentage of their profits back into communities where they are located, and beyond. A technology company for example will plough 5% or 7% of its profit back into Research & Development of new products – a supermarket has no such essential and large R&D requirement, so why don’t they for example plough a few percent of profit back into their local communities ? The traditional Youth Clubs have well nigh disappeared from schools – teachers cannot take on the extra burden and responsibilities, they are overloaded enough with the daily classroom load – let the local large supermarket finance and suport the local community Youth Club, or local Community Resource Centre or such like. Would be an advertisement for them if nothing else !

Supermarkets do contribute to local areas in the form of bribes to the council so they can open yet another local/express/whatever-they-call-themselves resulting in the closing of real local shops and small businesses. They slash prices until the local shops close then put their prices up.

Councils would rather accept these bribes than take notice of the locals who petition against opening yet another supermarket that ruins their local shops as small business are forced to close.

Most small local/express-type supermarkets are opened in existing retail frontages. If there is no change of use then no planning consent is required. Planning permission will be required for new signage and possibly for changes to appearance. These kinds of changes are usually delegated to officers or a small panel of councillors. It is unlikely, given the small value of the alterations and the application fee, that any planning officer would sacrifice their career for a few hundred pounds. I am not aware of any evidence of bribery affecting planning decisions for supermarkets. In my opinion nobody in their right mind would bribe a councillor.

Even public houses can be converted into supermarkets without express planning consent because they are included in the same retail use class. Usually the pub has been closed for a time and become a blight in the area and the community has thus welcomed the change. However, there was a high-profile case near Lowestoft recently where local opposition led to Tesco withdrawing their plans to convert a public house/hotel to a supermarket [although there could have been other commercial influences behind their retreat].

A joke we had 25 years ago is as valid today as it was then;

“what is the acid test of your marketing department, how do you know it’s performing well”?

“when your sales people don’t know they are lying”.

I get suspicious when I see a certain percentage discount, such as “25% off!” or “Half price!” as the reference price for the discount is almost never a realistic one. Take, for example, the price of dishwasher tablets. Their price history on mysupermarket.co.uk is a perfect square wave which goes from one price to double the price at regular intervals. When the product is at its non-double price, the supermarkets display it with a big “Half price” sign on the shelf. But that price is only half compared to an artificial price, not one that customers normally pay. I think the law should require that discounts be based on the average price over the last 12 months weighted by volume of sales. By using the weighting, it will show objectively and numerically that these discounts are not really discounts at all.

What effective mechanisms exist to stop price fixing? It’s abundantly clear it happens (who has ever paid more than 98p for a 2L bottle of Diet Pepsi, for instance?) and it happens on very expensive items, too. Although not strictly supermarkets, if you ever decide to buy a top-of-the-range Yamaha Clavinova you will find the price around the UK from every Yamaha dealer is identical.

Interestingly, when I challenged Yamaha, they denied this happens and sent me a printout from the web showing the prices across the UK as proof. I don’t know why, as the prices were identical…

If you challenge the supermarkets of price fixing they will tell you that they monitor their competitors’ prices to ensure that prices are competitive.

That’s right. I wonder if they provide each other with a database of their current prices?

Most supermarkets have a public API for retrieving their prices, which is how websites like mysupermarket.co.uk get their information.

Supermarkets can presumably quite easily check each others prices routinely on line.

I looked at Pepsi 2l; it seemed to vary from 66.7p (3 for £2) at Morrisons to £1.33 (3 for £4) at Ocado. How can flavoured water that is bad for you cost so much? Cans of coke were 29p to 38p depending on the pack size – cheapest 97p a litres. So I’m not sure this indicates price fixing.

The internet lets us shop around for the best prices on many products. I wouldn’t like to see a return to Retail Price Maintenance which really was price fixing.

John Emerson says:
20 October 2015

It is not just Supermarkets but the whole of the retail sector that has bee conning us for years with their spurious offers. Action is needed across the whole of the retail sector

I hope they will also sort out the price per weight, sometimes it is in grams, sometimes in kilograms and other times it is in pounds or ounces. I do believe we need to keep our imperial weights but we need to be able to compare the price of the same item, perhaps pre-packed over lose where one is often weighed in grams and the other in pounds making for a complicated calculation to see what the difference actually is!!