The watchdog made the appeal after analysing more than 70,000 grocery prices. “We found examples of misleading multi-buys that could cost you more and dodgy discounts, where the offer ran for much longer than the item was at the higher price,” noted a statement from Which?
Among the questionable deals highlighted was Ocado’s promotion of a 12 pack of Beck’s Bier as “was £12.19 now £9” for almost a month. But the product had been sold at the higher price of £12.19 only for three days, 18 days before the offer started, claimed Which?
“We also found some misleading multi-buys in Asda which didn’t save customers any money or, in some cases ended up costing more,” said the watchdog.
Launching Which?’s Make Special Offers Special campaign, its executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: “We’ve found dodgy discounts across the aisles. And with rising food prices hitting shoppers’ budgets hard we think supermarkets are not playing fair.
“The stores have had long enough to sort their act out, so we’re saying enough is enough, it’s time to Make Special Offers Special.”
Its research revealed rising food prices were one of the top worries for consumers, with 40% saying they are likely to cut back spending on food in the next few months. Eight-in-10 (81% of) shoppers reported searching for deals in supermarkets to help them save money.
The watchdog said it would consider legal action if three demands to end “poor practice” were unmet. Those were: supermarkets to end misleading special offers; the government to make the rules for special offers simpler, clearer and stricter; and tougher enforcement action to clamp down on rule breaking supermarkets.
A British Retail Consortium (BRC) spokesman said retailers were committed to giving customers a good deal and, in a very competitive market, worked hard to offer the keenest promotions and the best value.
Last month, 35% of all food was bought on promotion, demonstrating how consumers benefited from special offers, he claimed.
“Across the tens of thousands of promotions available every day, regrettably, occasional errors do slip through,” said the spokesman.
“Retailers work very quickly to rectify these mistakes whenever they are found. Overall, with the latest BRC-Nielsen Shop Price Index for October showing the sixth consecutive month of reductions in retail prices and food inflation also down to 2.7%, it’s clear there is good value to be had in the shops at the moment.”