Which? said it had found “even more examples of confusing multibuys and pricing oddities in stores”, after launching its campaign for clear supermarket pricing last November. Continuing its ‘Make special offers special’ campaign, the campaign group criticised the pricing policies of Tesco, M&S and Sainsbury, after analysing data from the independent shopping website MySupermarket.co.uk.
Supermarkets were selling seasonal products at a higher price weeks before most consumers needed to buy them, it claimed. “For example, Cadbury's Giant Creme Egg was £10 in Tesco and Sainsbury’s in February last year. It was then on offer at Tesco for £8 and at Sainsbury’s for £6.66 from March onwards in the lead up to Easter. Our advice would be to approach seasonal offers with caution and shop around.”
‘Approach seasonal offers with caution’
The consumer group also criticised M&S, which had positioned mixed grapes next to a ‘2 for £4’ sign, while the grapes nearest to the sign weren’t included in the offer. So consumers should check their receipt to see if the offer was registered, said Which?
Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director, said: “We’ve uncovered pricing tactics that make shopping for your weekly groceries look like tackling an obstacle course. With consumers struggling to cope with rising food prices, supermarkets and manufacturers need to make it easier for people to spot the best deal and Make Special Offers Special.”
But Tesco and M&S both said they were commited to clear pricing. A Tesco spokeswoman told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “We work hard to offer great value and clear, simple and honest prices and promotions, as we know how important it is that customers trust us on price. And of course our Price Promise means customers know they will never lose out by shopping at Tesco.
“We’re the only supermarket to compare prices on branded goods, own brand and fresh produce bought in-store or online, and automatically issue a voucher for the difference if a customer’s basket would have been cheaper elsewhere.”
Simple and transparent
An M&S spokeswoman said the retailer’s policy was simple and transparent, and that its customers were happy with its approach. “All our products have a shelf edge label next to them that states the price and any promotional details,” she said.
“In addition most products that are on promotion are clearly stickered so it’s easy for our customers to choose products that are part of a deal.”
But Which? said nearly half of shoppers complained they had bought something they thought was on offer but turned out not to be.
Other confusing pricing tactics included: products shrinking in size but the price remaining the same and, sometimes, increasing, and bigger pack sizes failing to deliver better value.
“Find out what your consumer rights are if you think you've been misled by a special offer and use our letter template to complain to Trading Standards,” advised Lloyd.
So far, more than 7,000 people have signed Which?’s campaign for clearer pricing of supermarket special offers. Launching the campaign last year, Lloyd appealed to supermarkets to end “dodgy discounts”.
How supermarket prices ‘get shoppers to part with their cash’
- Inflating the price of seasonal items in the months before they are needed, while reducing them later.
- Confusing signage that promises discounted prices but excludes nearby produce.
- Products shrinking in size, while the price remained the same and, in some cases, increased.
- Bigger packs that don’t deliver better value.