/ Shopping

Ask Which? – do shops have to display prices?

Fruit on shop shelf with no prices

Robert asks: My local 24-hour convenience store doesn’t display any prices, either on the shelves or the items themselves. I’d like to know if this is legal or if they should display prices?

After being charged three different prices for the same item in one week I’ve stopped buying anything there – should I go back and complain?

Joanne Lezemore, Senior Solicitor for Which? Legal Service responds:

For most goods pricing information must be clearly legible, displayed either on the goods or near to the goods, and inclusive of VAT and any other taxes.

Failure to do this is not only inconvenient for customers like yourself, it could also be a criminal offence, so your local shop should be making more of an effort to clearly price its products.

However, retailers don’t have to sell items at the price displayed if they have made a mistake; when you go into a shop, the items on display are an ‘invitation to treat’.

This means that you collect the item and ask the shop keeper to sell it to you. If you accept the price stated by the shop keeper and the retailer accepts the money, a contract is made.

Still, retailers and shopkeepers should be careful to be clear about their prices – to mislead customers is a criminal offence. If you feel you’ve been misled, read about your rights on pricing disputes and look at our guide on how to complain about misleading prices.

I hope this helps you; please be aware that the guidance given is limited by the information I have and should not be treated as a substitute for taking full legal advice.

Have you ever been misled by prices – or lack of prices – in a shop? What do you think retailers should do to make costs clearer to consumers?


I am very reluctant to enquire about unpriced items, so shops are shooting themselves in the foot by not displaying prices.

Most shops are good at displaying prices and the only one I know that has few price-marked goods is a motor factor. Thats a pity because most of their prices are very reasonable when I have enquired.

Not to display any prices, Small print and Hidden terms and condition
This all indicates that their intention is to make more money and mislead customers. Their heart is not clean and clear. As soon as their customers make mistake or forgotten to read it, they will take full advantage of that customer. This is called the weakness of consumer protection law.
We all hope our which team will make more stronger Consumer protection law with Govt.

Supermarkets including Waitrose WILFULLY and deliberately leave out pricing against
a select few but not very many of their products on an offer for sale display, in particular
the more expensive ones like cashews for example, in the hopes the customer pays at
the till irrespective of the amount charged without querying or shall not reject if
price charged turns out to be much/higher than expected. I do not buy that!

They also leave out price of cheaper basic salt but price the the more expensive

Yes… I complained loud and clear this practice is unacceptable and there’s
no response but a sheepish silence from them. It’s all within the supermarket
agenda, you see, to drive sales even if OR at the cost of the customer not being
fully apprised of the facts beforehand to make an informed decision whether
to buy or not.

I wouldn’t agree that supermarkets deliberately refuse to show prices; more likely to be a lapse. But if it happens frequently [or consistently to the same type of presentation of goods] then it should be reported to Trading Standards.
Incidentally, I enjoyed seeing your correct spelling of the word “apprised” and to see it used in its proper context.

Responding to John, I’ve Gowers’ … Plain Words to thank for
which book I’d gladly read again if available.

Supermarkets on the whole display prices, however they can make mistakes. I doubt very much that Waitrose intentionally did this, if found out the resulting publicity would be detremental.

Just Me says:
19 January 2012

I never buy anything where I do not know the price first.
If it is going to take me more than seconds to find the price, I walk away and go to the next shop. I also don’t forget if I have had this experience on more than one occasion, and eventually just stop shopping at stores that play these games.

james clifford says:
24 September 2012

with the banning of cigarettes and tobacco products from public display the supermarkets have also stopped displaying the prices.this means you can not compare reletive prices or go for the cheaper option and this allows the shops to increase their prices without due notice as you have no way of checking the correct price at the time .surely this can not be legal.you can request a price list but can not take a copy of it and when i checked the price quoted me it was different to the one on the list.sort this out please.

My golf club professional has stop displaying prices against all but a very few of his goods. Only last week I heard of someone buying an item for £15 which was quoted at £22.50 when he first enquired about it. Is there anything illegal about this non pricing and why the sudden big drop in price?

Del says:
19 March 2017

A mini supermarket opposite my flats has dozens of beer brands on the shelves but recently stopped displaying any prices. When I asked staff she just told me “£1.20 for Polish beers, £1.30 for English”
That sounds fishy

I have had a number of recent examples of highstreet shops displaying discounted prices on the shelves but when you take the item to the tills and they scan your basket the item is not discounted (even when you take into account the “discount” section of the reciept). They do not have any electronic display to show what you are paying for each item when it is being scanned and you are unable to check this until after you have paid and got your itemised reciept.
I would guess that very few people go through their receipts and check against their bought items even if they can remember what the display cost and therefore are being routinely over-charged.
Surely it should be compulsory for the consummer to see what he is being charged for each item before paying?

Peter Williams says:
15 March 2019

Just paid £20 per litre for 2 bottles of Tia Maria. The items were ‘unpriced’ (the product was unmarked and no obvious prices for the 1 liter bottle nearby). The 70cl was priced at £13 (equates to £18.57 per litre). Seems like deliberate case of hoping you’ll buy the big bottle in the that it would be slightly cheaper. If both products were priced properly then it would have been obvious the the best ‘deal’ would have been 3 x 70 cl at a total of £39 (providing 2.1 litres in total and £1 cheaper than 2 x 1 litre bottles


I mentioned this lack of pricing on my last visit (without working out the differences), it was immediately ‘flagged up’ by the checkout operator but still nothing done!

This is very common, Peter, and it’s certainly not just Morrisons that do this. I’ve recently been looking at pricing and concluded that Morrisons are very good at showing unit prices. Always look at the price per litre or whatever unit price is provided. HP Sauce comes in glass and plastic containers of different sizes, but checking the unit price makes it easy to see which is best value.

It’s also worth looking at unit prices where similar products are on display in more than one place. Here is an example of different pack sizes of the same cheese in the same supermarket. The ones with the higher unit price were in the end-of-aisle display cabinet whereas the better value packs were beside the rest of the cheese. I think we are expected to assume this display cabinets have special offers, but some are not so special:

Some supermarkets have bar code scanners in one or two aisles which I have found useful when I have had doubts about the shelf labels or there is a lack of price marking. The scanner allows you to check the price that will actually be charged at the checkout. I have not noticed whether the scanner gives unit price information. It would be more useful if it did.

I have just been to a builders merchant on a business park in Bridport where, in the shop (laid out like DIY sheds everywhere), nothing was priced. When I asked why, I was told that, since the businesses were mainly focussed on selling to ‘the trade’, the owners of the park had insisted that no prices be displayed. Can such a stipulation be made and Is there any logical explanation?

I came across this
“Retailing and merchanting
For example, goods and services must not be misleadingly described and the retail price of goods must be clearly displayed. You will be responsible for making sure that all goods or services are fit for their intended purpose and are of satisfactory quality.

Builders merchant legal issues | Business Law Donut

Mind, my experience of many such places is all goods are subject to “trade discounts” and often a private customer, if they ask, will also benefit from a reduction. So the price shown is not what many pay.

I don’t think there is any law that says prices must be displayed. But if a business sells mainly to “the Trade” any price that is displayed will not include VAT. In my opinion that fact should also appear on the display.

Retailers are obliged to display prices that include VAT but in my experience it is common for businesses that primarily sell to the trade not to show prices and any shown will be subject to VAT. I use a motor factor that always gives a discount on car parts, and I suspect that no-one pays the full price.