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Win! CMA takes Asda to task on dodgy special offers

special offers

Is the end in sight for misleading supermarket offers? Today the CMA has announced that it has called on supermarkets to review promotional pricing practices.

You may well recall that last April we made a super-complaint to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) on issues we have seen for many years – supermarkets using dodgy and misleading pricing tactics.

The CMA has since embarked on a further investigation into pricing tactics, and in a huge win for our campaign, the regulator has announced today that it’s taken Asda to task and secured a formal legal commitment that the supermarket will change its pricing practices.

Asda has been found breaking the rules and now must immediately clean up their act by August.

Dodgy special offers

With your help, we’ve been drawing attention to these misleading pricing tactics used by supermarkets for the last eight years. Asda has come up many times in our investigations, and you also told us about dodgy offers you’ve spotted.

In 2011, Asda started cropping up in our investigations and we exposed such tactics as products being on offer longer than they are at their so-called “real” price, and multi-buys that don’t add up to savings.

For example in our investigation in June 2015 we found Hovis Medium Sliced Soft White Bread (800g) was being sold at £1 (‘was £1.20’) in Asda, even though the price before the offer started was £1, and the product hadn’t been sold at £1.20 for 116 days.

Next steps

It’s not over yet, the battle continues for our campaign as we still fight to end downright dodgy offers and misleading pricing tactics with other retailers.

This problem is one that extends further than supermarkets. Our super-complaint and actions taken by the authorities should serve as a clear warning to all retailers. If they try to pull the wool over consumers’ eyes they will not get away with it. Retailers must get their house in order.

So have you seen a dodgy deal or misleading pricing tactic in another sector? We know about problems with electrical retailers, furniture stores and holiday/flight pricing – tell us if you’ve spotted any others that are breaking the rules.


I have never ever believed any supermarkets on their so called offer claims, they are only there to feed their profits, the customer is an after thought. All the big boys in the marketplace have been found out by the discounters that is why they are now struggling and losing business.

dorothygrayling says:
27 April 2016

Support our local shops, no rip offs .

Gary says:
29 April 2016

Not necessarily, dorothy. My nearest grocery shop is the Co-op. And the next nearest is a Co-op. Then another Co-op. All of them charging ‘convenience’ (i.e. inflated) prices, with many basic items 20-30% more expensive than in the big supermarkets which are a 6-8 mile drive.
My pet hate with the big supermarkets is yo-yo pricing: Flora either £1.00 or £1.70, no price in between. Persil Non-bio 45 wash, either £6 or £11. Heinz baked beans 50p or 70p. I assume that the difference in pricing is an indication of the sort of profit margin supermarkets make on these items.

I shop in Waitrose and never experience anything incorrect. Despite a lot of people thinking they are an expensive supermarket., they are often cheaper than others because I have looked to check. They do an essentials range, everything including those items are top quality. You can choose 10 items you buy frequently and get 20% off even if it is on an offer. Today we saved £26 on our shopping. You have to apply free for a My Waitrose card. You can get free tea/coffee. A free newspaper when you spend £5. The customer service is 100%.

I must dis agree with you, recent examples Waitrose Value cheese costing more than a premium value Cathedral cheese and another example , Dr Beckmann carpet stain remover Waitrose price £5, at Asda £3.50, I have checked the main five supermarket prices over the last 12 months or so and on every occasion Waitrose prices was the most expensive.

Sean says:
27 April 2016

Pricing is something you always need to check. Heinz soup for example, they sell them at a price for a special family four pack with great packaging and eye catching colours but if you look at the single tin price it’s cheaper to buy them individually. Supermarkets have a lot to answer for in terms of food wastage as well, encouraging us to multi-buy when we actually don’t need to.

It’s good that Asda has agreed to behave itself, but what will be the penalty if it misbehaves again and does the process need to be repeated to get all supermarkets to behave themselves?

What concerns me most is the multi-buy offers that show only the unit price for a single item but not the unit price for the special offer. I can do mental arithmetic but I’m sure that Tesco’s multi-buy pricing confuses many shoppers. I have given up pointing out the problem in my local Tesco.

I recently recounted a more complicated multi-buy offer in Marks & Spencer where the offer was to buy three items, some of which had different prices, and you would get the cheapest item free. This makes it impossible to know the unit price of an item and makes a mockery of unit pricing. I have seen similar pricing in other supermarkets but this was the first time I have raised it with staff.

I accept that not everyone uses unit prices but they are there to facilitate simple price comparison. Lets put an end to the supermarkets’ little games.

M & S have offers which are usually “3 for £7” or similar. We buy a lot of fish, and we really like their mackerel, but the average price of a pack of mackerel (they’re all different) is roughly £2.21. Since they’re on the “3 for £7” offer it doesn’t take a genius to see that you have to be mighty canny to avoid being ripped off. We adopt a strategic battle plan: my wife attacks the fruit and veg while I confront the Mackerel shelf, relentlessly going through every packet until I find three that exceed £2.333333333333333333333 etc. My protest is marked by the heap of rejected mackerel packets I leave in my wake, but it’s something that needs sorting.

ALLAN says:
27 April 2016

Stop these dam silly buy one get one frees, just lower the prices

Michael says:
27 April 2016

I don’t mind buy one get one free as I always give the free one to someone I know who needs it.

dorothygrayling says:
27 April 2016

If you work it out , u are paying more,

Gnasher says:
27 April 2016

Utterly fed up with going into a supermarket and seeing a sea of ‘Buy 2 get 1 free’ type labels. If I only want one I will buy something else instead!

John says:
11 June 2016

I read recently that we throw away 1/3 of the food we buy. Maybe supermarkets should have a sign saying buy 3 throw one away.

Asda, in one day put £1 on a price of PG tips. Absolute crooks & idiots for extracting the urine out of their customers.

And I’ll bet that it would soon be on special offer with £1 off!

One of the reasons that Aldi are so popular is that they don’t go in for the two for one offers, and Asda’s roll back is a load nonsense. When are Supermarkets going to realise that their pricing hurts older folk, if a pensioner only wants one article they’ve to pay too high a price. Got to go, just off to Aldi.

dorothygrayling says:
27 April 2016

Love lidle here in Northern ireland, best shopping, no gimmicks.

yes i agree, used to go to Asda every week i now go to Lidl and only go to Asda to get the oddd thing that i cannot get in Lidle’s

Catherine Farrell says:
29 April 2016

I like Aldi but you have to be very careful with their fresh produce as it’s often got a very short life. Several times I’ve bought stuff to find its gone moldy within a couple of days – and sometimes still within sell by date!

Our local Aldi has such a fast turnover that their fruit and veg is always lovely and fresh.

Also in need of urgent attention are the unscrupulous manufacturers who reduce the size/weight of their product without reducing the price of the item.

Yes I remember way back when Wagon Wheels were quite large and the name fitted. Today they should be renamed because the size has been so much reduced.

Peter. Kimmance says:
29 April 2016

I no longer purchase any Cadbury products because of the abandoned promise of the CEO and the relocation out of the UK. However, I notice the reduction in size/numbers within their products for the same or increased price. This happens with other name brands as well. The only answer is to boycott their products – slim a little.

I have recently noticed that ‘mars bars’ have shrunk from 51 g to a measly 38 g without any price reduction.

Thomas allan says:
29 April 2016

I don’t purchase Cadbury anymore because it’s halal.

I stopped buying Cadbury products when I found out they don’t pay any tax in the UK, I am getting so fed up with so many companies – many of which are giving £millions to the Conservative party, like Warburton’s, not paying their proper tax – this is our biggest problem in the UK for loss of income, our NHS & schools are suffering because of these companies.

Here here Penny if only more folk took the same attitude instead of buying the cheapest wherever they can get it and not worrying about where it comes from or if the company pays UK corp tax

Maybe it is about time that Which? published a list of all major companies (stores & manufacturers) detailing whether they are UK owned & whether they pay “all” relevant taxes in the UK.

I found that it is almost impossible to discover the unit price of nuts and seeds in Holland and Barrett. Different sizes of packs makes calculating costs very difficult.
I gave up and went to the supermarket where unit prices were shown.

I thought you got one and the second for 1p. Makes it even more difficult for some. Or is that just pills?

Andrew Gardiner says:
27 April 2016

What is equally worrying is manufacturers reducing product volume/sizes whilst ‘forgetting’ to reduce pricing – at worst fraud, at best immoral.

I used to shop at Asda on line but on my last delivery there were 11 fairly basic items not available. I paid for delivery and did not get these items.

John says:
27 April 2016

If you choose “No Substitutes” then Asda will leave you short, to be fair they are better than Tesco if you accept substitutes, Tesco swapped Toothpaste for Shoe Polish, and Bleach for Custard Powder ??
Morrisons have an excellent delivery service, they send you a receipt early in the day telling you in advance if they can’t deliver an item, so at least you can nip out and get some milk before the local shop is closed, also they tell you who the driver is what the registration number is of the van and they colour code the delivery bags so you can see straight away what is chilled, fresh, cupboard etc. Rarely do Morrisons seem to be out of stock, and dates are generally good – Tesco were quite content for me to complain to Environmental Health when I pointed out the Tomatoes they had delivered were covered in white fluffy mould, and the Bread was also going green! I rarely use Tesco now.

I totally agree about reduced weights and sizes of products by supermarkets and manufacturers. I noticed this particularly when we went metric in the UK. For instance biscuits were then sold in 8 oz packets but the metric equivalent soon became 6 or 6.5 ozs and the biscuits became smaller. I noticed Walkers recently introduced a new crisp line pack of 6 x 28 grm. packets which were reduced to 23 grm. packets about a month later, of course at the same price. Do manufacturers and supermarkets really think we are all stupid?

John says:
27 April 2016

Ridiculous furniture sales and the scam of “Will be” prices to justify an introductory price. Dog’s First Sofa have for years had amazing offers, and so called interest free periods, but once in store they con you into extra’s like Scotch Guard, and then the interest free period suddenly seems to melt away. Sofa’s that you never seen before now on “sale” at 80% off etc. Delays in delivery if you don’t take the interest “free” credit out is another scam. It is virtually impossible to find a sofa that is a genuine sale item, and that doesn’t involve some complicated finance scheme. I walk into John Lewis, see a Sofa, take out Credit Card, Pay for Sofa, Sofa delivered, so why do the likes of DFS, Sofaworks, Harveys and others make it seem like a visit to the Mafia?

Brilliant, John!

I remember MFI. You can add the bed shops, and furniture worlds/lands/cities/villages to your list as well.

How many people have room to store these 2 for 1 products or even get to use them before they are out of date?

It’s not compulsory to avail ourselves of these ‘discounts’, but would the single unit price be lowered if they were outlawed?

Providing that there is competition, I expect we would see lower prices on single unit prices. I don’t think we should condone waste of fresh produce.

But there is no effective competition between the major supermarkets. Once you are in Tesco or Asda you do your whole shop there – people do not drive across town for a cheaper cucumber.

We never waste any fruit or veg but I am sure a lot is thrown away by people who do not store it properly or who buy too much in the first place [possibly attracted by multi-buy discounts].

When you live alone pre-packed bags of fruit & veg are too big BUT frequently loose fruit & veg costs more per kg than pre-packs if you can even buy it loose. My supermarket is frequently out of stock of loose items irespective of the time of day/day of the week!

If there are no loose items left, a member of staff will often open a pack for you if you ask them nicely and explain you only need 1 item.

It’s always worth a try.

Have managed to do this on occasions but sadly finding a member of staff can be immensely frustrating & more to the point why should I have to? I wonder whether the supermarkets deliberately do not have loose fruit/veg so that we are forced to buy a larger quantity/ spend more money than we need to.

And there is often a full tray lurking underneath an empty one. It’s always worth a look.

If that doesn’t work, try underneath all the other trays. Then if you are really desperate, check the ledges or look on staff trolleys for stuff they haven’t put out yet.

In Tesco yesterday, the tea bags we wanted were on special offer but the shelf was empty. The box above was empty, but we found another box full on the top shelf way down the aisle.

We don’t give up easily !!! 🙂

Always do as quite often the “best before” date is better but not always!

Looking for press coverage of what’s happening in supermarkets I came across an article that includes some encouraging information about phase out of multi-buys:

Since this newspaper last night reported that misleading buy-one-get-one free offers and special deals in supermarkets could be banned within weeks under a clampdown being prepared by watchdogs, Sainsburys has become the first to say it will completely discontinue multi-buy deals in store. Instead it will favour selling individual items at a lower prices.

Sainsburys today announced it would scrap the vast majority of multi-buy deals by August, with special offers on confectionary, crisps and other “unhealthy” snacks being phased out by March.

First we are told that Sainsburys will end multi-buys within weeks and then we are told that it will end these deals on snacks and “confectionary”. I’m confused but maybe not as confused as the author of the article.

J Barnes says:
28 April 2016

It may seem like a big success but should we really trust the supermarkets, after all they are only interested in getting us to part with our money and no doubt they will find a way around this making it look like they have done what is asked of them, trust supermarket, NO I do not.

JBarnes. Quite right. However what is often forgotten is that most people have the means to think for themselves and, if they choose, to work out whether a deal is good for them or not (is the price better, is it acceptable to me, do I want 2 items because it works out cheaper per item). No one forces us to buy anything from a supermarket, and unless we spend ages shopping around, we will never get the best overall deal. Providing the law stops deceit and deliberately misleading practices then I think we have gone far enough.

Someone (John or DT I think) pointed out their surprise that a half cucumber in Sainsbury’s was half the price (35p) of a whole one, while in Tesco it was not, but cost only 24p. I’m not sure whether the point being made was the difference in price, but we paid 35p for our half cucumber at M&S quite willingly. Maybe it was a better cucumber than Tescos, maybe not, but we accepted what was offered quite freely.

The point I make is that we each have free choice, and should exercise it.

Malcolm – In a Conversation about vehicle emissions you have repeatedly pointed out that we need to do something to curb people taking cars into cities. I totally agree, but obviously many would see this as a restriction of personal freedom – which it is.

Multi-buy and large pack offers on fresh food waste food and there are many environmental implications. For example the amount of water used in some food production is huge. I’ve sat through enough presentations by the Environment Agency, water companies and wildlife organisations to be convinced that there is a real problem. I have no problem with multi-buy offers on goods other than fresh produce (providing that the unit price is shown) but cannot agree with you. You and others have argued that no-one needs to take advantage of multi-buy offers but the supermarkets often inflate the single item price. At one time, Tesco was selling a half cucumber for 90p and a whole one for £1.

Why should we restrict personal freedom to take cars into cities but continue to promote food wastage via multi-buys?

Agreed. . .Fresh food waste is a problem made worse by silly non effective offers many of which are paid for by the farmer and as shown in Doc’s the farmer really has little choice

We cannot restrict personal freedom. . . People will not stand for it , ,whether it be correct in some eyes or not , , just yet anyhow!!

Life is about more than price

We have the personal freedom in both cases.

If you don’t want or need it, or think it poor value, don’t buy it.

As far as city pollution is concerned I was making the point that improving vehicle emissions alone will not solve the problem. Parts of London that see the first 10 days of the year getting a whole year’s worth of pollution means you’d have to reduce vehicle emissions by nearly 40x. Not likely, is it. So if we, collectively, want to see pollution reduced to safer levels then other measures are necessary. like reducing the amount of traffic. Freedom of choice to do this if we really are concerned about pollution. If not, carry on poisoning the population just as we are now.

terence bellamy-lee says:
28 April 2016

as an senior citizen there are too many buy one get one free offers when I only want one of an item.

We bought an Asda chilled/frozen box of “Lamb shank”…photo on box shows TWO, wording states “enough for two”. There was a special offer if I had bought two boxes, but I only wanted two lamb shanks and my fridge is small! It seemed a good deal… In retrospect too good? It was for a special evening meal! Only upon defrosting and when at home we discover only ONE lamb shank despite photo and wording on box. Upon complaint to Asda over phone, instructed to bring either till receipt [who keeps them?] or box into store for refund. So disgusted it took me two months before I would even set foot in the store again and with the box we had retrieved from the bin!
Eventually I got my refund, more out of anger which two month on was still incandescent.
I used to visit Asda regularly but haven’t since…… What price integrity to promote customer loyalty?
Enough said?

I keep till receipts because I always pay by credit card for purchases over £5 (approx.) & check them to the statement so have 4/6 weeks worth at any given time.

Bought a diary from ASDA the basket had £1 price was £1.50 this price was displayed on the other side.
Dowe egberts coffee small jar on roll back to £3……… RRP £2.69 where are they rolling back to next year!
Misleading is not the word to use.
Lies is far more appropriate

Matt says:
29 April 2016

I’ve tried to avoid Asda for a while, sometimes there are no option unfortunately. This article convinced me they were worth avoiding:


What an awful story.

A couple of times I have had a security alarm go off and noticed others dash through at the same time.

Being honest, I stop assuming a tag wasn’t removed properly. The real thieves are long gone and it is horrendous to think I could be accused of stealing as I am the only one in the area.