Supermarkets ‘right to fight’ super complaint

By Rod Addy contact

- Last updated on GMT

Supermarkets are entitled to use a full range of promotional pricing tactics, says Miller
Supermarkets are entitled to use a full range of promotional pricing tactics, says Miller

Related tags: Wal-mart, Supermarket

Supermarkets should defend themselves against the ‘super-complaint’ issued by consumer group Which? following an investigation into apparently misleading supermarket pricing practices.

That’s according to Nick Miller, head of FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) at global supply chain consultancy Crimson & Co.

Miller claimed the UK actually offered consumers far more affordability than the majority of EU countries.

Earlier this week Which? used its legal powers under the Enterprise Act 2002, to file a complaint with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), regarding “confusing,” “dodgy”​ and “misleading”​ supermarket pricing tactics. It claimed such practices could potentially harm consumer interests.

90 days to respond

The 24-page dossier took seven years to compile and is currently with the CMA, which has 90 days to respond. Miller states that the accusations made by Which? exaggerate pricing and promotional tactics, and that supermarkets are perfectly entitled to dispute the claims.

“The supermarkets are well within their right to fight the allegations made against them by Which?,”​ said Miller. “When it comes to food retail the UK is one of the most competitive markets, and is able to afford consumers some of the lowest prices on goods across the whole of the EU.

“As a nation the UK has always been very accepting of competitive pricing and promotional offers.  Having a high-base price, which is easy to discount, is a fairly commonplace practice. Consumers enjoy seeing stickers on products saying 30% off, even when they know it is simply reduced to a reasonable price – they accept it as part of the retail experience.”

The challenge posed by the growing popularity of discounters Aldi and Lidl, with traditional supermarkets such as Tesco posting massive losses, was fuelling the pricing debate, he said.

‘Struggling’

“The quality of the produce, as well as continually low prices keeps consumers visiting discount retailers. As a result, the big four supermarkets (Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury and Morrisons) are struggling to cope as consumers vote with their feet and wallets …”

Supermarkets were perfectly entitled to engage in a full range of promotional pricing tactics, providing there were no serious breaches of advertising rules, Miller added.

Which? has claimed consumers could be losing millions of pounds every year as a result of the “dodgy”​ pricing tactics of the grocery retailers, with up to 40% of groceries currently sold on promotion.

Particular areas of concern included confusing and misleading special offers, lack of easily comparable prices due to unit pricing calculations and ‘shrinkflation’ – shrinking pack sizes without comparable price reductions – the consumer watchdog said.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: “We’re saying enough is enough and using one of the most powerful legal weapons in our armoury to act on behalf of consumers by launching a super-complaint to the regulator. We want an end to misleading pricing tactics and for all retailers to use fair pricing that people can trust.”

Related topics: Legal

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1 comment

Miller is not talking on behalf of consumers!

Posted by Michael Barrett,

Nick Miller is bang out of order to suggest that consumers accept discounting to a "reasonable price" as "part of the retail experience." I am a consumer, and I want to see those "reasonable prices" being available all the time. Thank you!

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