/ 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?

Comments
Guest
harry says:
16 October 2015

I am a marine engineer and every time I come back from one of my terms on board my ship I find that the cost of my weekly shop has gone up. The Supermarkets say the prices have gone down??????????????
Special offers are most of the time a con. The customers are being taken for a ride.

Guest

If the supermarkets were or are selling their goods as cheap as they would have us believe. they would not have the money to set up Banks, Petrol Stations, Mobile Phones, Insurance and so on. instead of a lot of people having a good living because of the greed of the supermarkets, just a few have it all. the supermarkets have destroyed too many family businesses. closed too many petrol stations and village stores. they are too greedy and have too much power over the public and the economy.

Guest
Iris says:
18 October 2015

I totally agree with Les’s comments. Their name suits their image perfectly, big and powerful supermarkets! One of them just sold some land in London to developers for a gigantic sum.

Guest
Theo says:
16 October 2015

Tesco has now discontinued many goods from its “value” brand, forcing us to buy more expensive ones. Also when some low cost products get out of stock, it takes ages to restock them.

Tesco have had some poor financial results in their last report, mostly due to poor investment decisions and mismanagement and are now raising prices on the quiet, hoping we will not notice. But my Tesco Grocery bill this year is 10% higher than last year.

Profile photo of Gladys1
Guest

I agree that they are slowly increasing their prices but it is very under handed the way they are doing it. They are stopping selling many of the goods that we buy with cheaper inferior goods. They are also not replacing foods that they were selling exclusively by some companies that do not sell in any other supermarkets.

Profile photo of John Ward
Guest

Yes, Tesco’s de-listing of numerous products is becoming quite noticeable now. This obviously makes their new ‘Brand Guarantee’ promotion more viable [for them] as it eliminates comparisons. Keeping up with these trick-a-minute merchants is hard work.

Profile photo of Ottvantor
Guest

Prices may be increasing but cost cutting pushes up the supply chain to offshore countries who may engage slave labour and possibly ingredient substitution or counterfeit. The new anti-slavery law in the UK is very important but can retailers and brand owners be transparency in their supply chains or will they pass the buck?

Profile photo of BrianPC
Guest

There has been a trend setting in lately with packaging that is also linked to pricing. Its the actual size of the packets relative to the product within. We chased this point with a manufacturer who told us they realised this but the size was the dictate of the supermarket!!!! We followed this up with them, they gave us our money back, took details but could not sat any further action would be taken as its the marketing dept. that controls such things and the complaint is unlikely to reach them!!!

Guest
Sally says:
16 October 2015

It is often cheaper to buy two packs of a product than the “special offer” of a double pack. This really is a con – less for more money? It should be illegal. If you`re in a rush or herding children you can`t always check weights and volume. Also some things are weighed in lbs and ozs and others in kg and grms, I`d put money on it that this is designed to confuse. It`s sharp practice.

Profile photo of CharlieJordan
Guest

I think we should see the real price, and how much profit is made on each item,
that way we can see if we are being ripped off.
People would be furious if they knew how much profit they make on certain items,
but also surprised at the losses they make on everyday staple food.

Profile photo of John Ward
Guest

When I idly drift around the bakery section I wonder how on earth a cheese straw can cost 75p [and probably made with left-over cheese], but people are buying them. And they’re 89p in a local format outlet. It must be the power of the recession and the affect of austerity addling people’s brains.

Profile photo of HumphreyHudson
Guest

Apart from agreeing with most of the above comments, I would like to add some others …

1. Why do products from eurozone countries appear to rise in price despite the sharp gains in sterling against the euro over the past 10 months — logically the cheaper euro and lower transport costs ( due to much cheaper fuel) should have seen a sharp fall in the cost to the consumer of such products while maintaining the supermarkets’ margins. At the moment they are profiteering.

2. Instore labelling (ie the labels shown on the shelves for each product ) should actually show the alcohol level of wine/spirits being sold and the consumer should not have to pickup the bottle to find out the alcohol level — in fact this is almost a public health issue. And again why have eurozone wines appear to have increased in price despite the strengthening of sterling.

3. And a specific issue — why should a Sainsbury’s store in Kent after all(the Garden of England) have no English plums on display September /October but instead has only imported plums for Portugal and Spain. A M&S store in the same town has Kentish plums on sale.

Profile photo of John Ward
Guest

Very good points Humphrey.

I have been very disappointed this year at the absence of English plums, especially the Victoria variety – are they going abroad?

Guest

I agree with all the above too… What I can’t understand is why on earth do people allow themselves to get so ripped off and do nothing…. What happened to the old British spirit? people must be getting their money too easily or they are just giving up….. Where’s my coat?….

Profile photo of malcolm r
Guest

Peter, if your point is “why don’t people think for themselves” I would agree with you.

No shop forces you to buy anything; if you don’t think it is good value then you do not have not buy it. I quite like cheese straws with a glass of wine, but I wouldn’t pay 70p for one (how big was it John?) and I’m not in the habit of looking at alcohol content on wine when i buy it – just adjust the dose when I drink it.

However I would not tolerate deliberately misleading pricing (that is pricing intended to deceive). I do understand mistaken pricing, but would expect the store to put that right when reported.

What is missing is the policing and correction of those who indulge in providing misleading information. That used to be done by Trading Standards. Perhaps Which? should start a campaign to get their numbers increased so they can do what their name suggests – maintain standards in trading.

Profile photo of John Ward
Guest

Just for the record, Tesco’s in-store bakery sells cheese straws that are about as thick and twice as long as my two middle fingers. They are 75p each in the superstore and 89p each in a Tesco Express/Local [to reflect delivery costs presumably].

It was just an example, in response to Charlie Jordan’s comment above, to illustrate that different products have different profit ratios. It also confirms the adage that prices reflect what the market will bear.

Profile photo of KeithBaker
Guest

Always check the offers, I have found at least 50% of the time they are either no cheaper or the difference is a couple of pence. Beware of the ‘Special Offer’ followed by a price only – there is often no comparison price. Mind you the furniture shops have been getting away with bogus sale prices for decades! No there are no real genuine sales or bargains these days – we’re all being taken for a ride.

Profile photo of JohnTidmarsh
Guest

I would like them to do away with buy one get one free, I do not always want more than one item and can end up throwing things away

Profile photo of B.Hanson
Guest

I quite agree John, I have found that Farmfoods sell items in 10s so if you live alone this is ridiculous

Profile photo of BrianReeves
Guest

I have got to the point where I so distrust Tesco that, where possible, I now go out of my way to avoid their products. Unfortunately, without a car, they are the most convenient, but when I have ventured elsewhere they all appear tarred with the same brush. I how just HATE shopping!

Guest
anne says:
16 October 2015

Why in the last 7 times I have gone to Tesco my weekly shopping there has been no skimmed milk on show, so I have hunted a person down to enquire and they go out the back and come with a full rack! Once or twice I can understand but 7 times in a row is not acceptable.

Guest
Griff Jones says:
16 October 2015

We have been shopping at tesco Baldock for nearly 30 years & every week things get worse most normal products we usually have are not stocked any more because we’re told there’s not enough call for them now, everything is getting smaller but prices are getting bigger, the cartons of 6 pints milk are so thin you have a job lifting them without them collapsing we have had several leak out into the car by the time we got home, when you try to complain there’s never a manager in the store I though tesco was a food store, stop selling all the junk and sell more food

Guest
Lisa says:
16 October 2015

No more offers just flat, honest prices. Meat particularly is different weights in the different supermarkets to make it not comparable. Ban battery eggs, bring back non homogenized milk, and make it clear how animals have been kept and fed on meat packs. An honest price for honest food that’s not been messed with. Make it clear what fruit and veg and meat is in season so that we can get back to buying seasonal foods. Make it extremely clear on all foods when something has over 1/4 of our daily need of something per portion and what the weight of the portion size is both raw and cooked. I would love to see a supermarket before and after a nutritionist went in and removed all of the foods that we shouldn’t be eating in the majority of our diet!

Profile photo of wavechange
Guest

Not everyone is happy about the Which? super-complaint: http://www.foodmanufacture.co.uk/Business-News/Super-complaint-from-Which-was-a-waste-of-time

The article says we get a fair deal from our grocery retailers. That’s alright then.

Perhaps we should dedicate the image at the top of this page to the guy who wrote the article. 🙂

Profile photo of sharonprice
Guest

I would also like to comment on the so called Roll Back Prices, they are either more expensive than the original price or, they are exactly the same as the original price like, “Was £1 rolled back to £1”, this drives me nuts and, every week the cost of my weekly shop changes even though I buy the exact same products every week! all this should be made illegal, and all their stock trolleys shouldn’t be left in the isles its highly dangerous for, disabled people like me! its disgusting, my local Asda always do this, I’m sick of having to get my carer to move them out of my way! its not fair!!!!!!!

Profile photo of AAAHappyMan
Guest

If I want to buy, for example tomatoes, I’m faced with:
1)….. A pack of 4 or 6 with a pack price – no weight, nor price per Kg/lb
2)….. When available – lose toms, priced by weight = Kg/lb

1)… Is, of course convenient – BUT much overpriced – IFF (sic) one checks !
Unfair / sharp practice !

Profile photo of shane
Guest

Stop the practice of advertising the saving represented by a price reduction on the supermarkets’ shelf edge labels and tickets.. This illustration is often very misleading because amount saved is in larger print than the actual price of the product that has been reduced thus conning customers in to believing that they are getting a bargain

Profile photo of wavechange
Guest

Though the lack of unit pricing on multi-buys is relevant to the super-complaint, we need to get rid of multi-buy offer on fresh food, which results in so much waste. There’s no problem with multi-buy offers on washing powder and toilet rolls because they can be stored.

Tesco have not been doing multi-buy offers on cucumbers this year. For the last couple of years they have had an offer of two for £1 instead of 90p each When the offer was not on, the price was 45 or 50p each.

Profile photo of shane
Guest

‘Buy one get one free’ should be abolished. People take the free product because it is free regardless of whether they need it or will even use it. Many of these buy one get one free offers in fruit and veg lines finds its way to dustbin unused. Wasteful.

Profile photo of John Ward
Guest

BOGOF is perfectly valid except in perishables. Many people value the savings they make from BOGOF offers. There is no guarantee that without the offer the unit price would be halved.

20:30 17/10/15

Guest
Christine COOPER says:
17 October 2015

I do not really trust supermarkets on pricing. especially when one of the “Big” supermarkets prices soup on offer at 65p a can and then boost of a multi pack deal of 4 cans for £3.10p. work it out.

Guest
Caroline says:
17 October 2015

I live on my own and find the way that supermarkets price and package vegetables irritating: I could buy a 1kg bag of new potatoes for £1 and throw half of them away as they’ve sprouted / gone soft before I’ve used them or pay £3 per kilo for the loose new potatoes. The majority of offers are based on buying more of a product, which is not much use to those of us who live alone.

Guest
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……………………………………..

Profile photo of doreenwalters
Guest

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?

Profile photo of FrankWallace
Guest

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.

Guest
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!

Profile photo of wavechange
Guest

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.

Guest

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!

Guest
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!!!

Guest
colin says:
17 October 2015

you are not far wrong dave m

Profile photo of AnneNewton
Guest

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?

Profile photo of JohnO
Guest

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 !

Profile photo of alfa
Guest

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.

Profile photo of John Ward
Guest

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].

Profile photo of Ottvantor
Guest

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”.

Profile photo of Clint Kirk
Guest

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.

Profile photo of Ian
Guest

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…

Profile photo of wavechange
Guest

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

Profile photo of Ian
Guest

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

Profile photo of Clint Kirk
Guest

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

Profile photo of malcolm r
Guest

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.

Guest
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

Profile photo of TDR250
Guest

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!!