Which? claimed to have further evidence of dodgy special offers – some of which “appear to break government guidelines” – after it filed a super-complaint about the matter to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) last month.
As an example of dodgy deals, the pressure group pointed to continuing offers where products were on offer longer than they were sold at the higher price. “This makes it look like you’re getting a discount, when actually the lower ‘discount’ price is probably a more accurate reflection of the value of the product,” said Which?
‘More accurate reflection’
Pepsi Max in 2 litre bottles were sold at £1.98 in Morrisons for 28 days before going on a £1 ‘was £1.98’ offer for 63 days.
But retailers’ organisation the British Retail Consortium (BRC) denied its members had acted improperly. “UK retailers are committed to treating their customers fairly and to avoid misleading them in any way,” the BRC’s director of business and regulation Tom Ironside told FoodManufacture.co.uk.
“We do not accept the core implications set out in the Which? super-complaint. The examples set out are very specific in nature and are not in any way indicative of broader systemic problems across the retail industry. With thousands of products and special offers in store every day, errors may from time-to-time occur, however these are rare in nature and are resolved quickly by the retailer concerned.”
Millions of shoppers benefited
The BRC said millions of shoppers benefited from price promotions and special offers. Recent research had revealed that food prices in British supermarkets, excluding fruit and vegetables, were on average 7% lower than the Eurozone average, it claimed.
“Retailers are continuing to pull the wool over shoppers’ eyes with dodgy discounts that just don’t stack up. Our super-complaint has the backing of tens of thousands of concerned shoppers and is calling on the regulator to take action to put an end to misleading pricing practices.”
Which?’s Richard Loyd
“Major supermarkets have worked with government and public bodies to make pricing clearer and simpler for customers, such as improving the way that unit price is displayed,” said Ironside.
Meanwhile, Which?’s claimed its campaign – Put an End to Misleading Pricing – was supported by more than 60,000 people. “Our latest research shows further evidence of pricing practices used by retailers to create the illusion of savings that don't exist and manipulate consumers’ spending,” it said.
More than two thirds (68%) of shoppers reported buying grocery items on a discount offer in the past month, while six in 10 (60%) had bought items on multibuy. Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: “Retailers are continuing to pull the wool over shoppers’ eyes with dodgy discounts that just don’t stack up. Our super-complaint has the backing of tens of thousands of concerned shoppers and is calling on the regulator to take action to put an end to misleading pricing practices.”
The pressure group’s super-complaint urged the CMA to take action against: confusing and misleading special offers; the lack of easily comparable prices and shrinking pack sizes without any corresponding price reduction.
Which?’s super-complaint urges action against:
• Confusing and misleading special offers
• Lack of easily comparable prices because of unit pricing calculation
• Shrinking pack sizes without corresponding price reduction.