How to complain if you think you’ve been misled by a special offer

Have you ever felt you've been deceived by a special offer in the supermarket? 

Which? wants to see an end to misleading pricing and dodgy multibuy deals. 

Whether your local supermarket is Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury's, Tesco or any other, the way to complain is the same. Follow our step-by-step guide.

1 Check the offer is genuine

Which? research has revealed that supermarkets are continuing to dupe consumers with so called 'special offers'. 

With 8 in 10 people looking out for offers in supermarkets, two-thirds of consumers believe they have been misled by an offer that wasn't as good as it initially appeared. 

We studied more than 70,000 grocery prices and found around 10% of items were on offer at the discounted price longer than being charged at the previously higher price, leaving people unsure of the product's normal price. 

If you're unsure about a special offer in your local supermarket, make sure you check that the offer is genuine before parting with your cash. 

Top tips

  • Make sure you check the offer is genuine and hasn't been on offer longer than being at the higher price
  • Gather your evidence by taking date marked photos of the product before and during the offer and keep receipts
  • Complain to the supermarket and give them your evidence
  • Complain to your local trading standards department

2 Know your rights

The current pricing practices of supermarkets must comply with the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations, which ban misleading actions. 

The regulations also give consumers rights to redress, including the right to undo a contract and receive a refund, the right to a discount and an entitlement to seek damages. 

But in order for these rights to apply, you need to be able to show that a misleading action was a significant factor in encouraging you to make a purchase. 

Government guidance says that special offers shouldn’t be misleading, and any higher price mentioned should be a genuine price.

The guidance differs slightly depending on whether you are buying food or drink or something else, such as a TV.

3 Gather your evidence

However, what is considered misleading depends on the circumstances.

In some cases, putting up a small sign that explains how the offer differs from these rules could be enough.

Examples of potentially misleading offers could be individual products increasing in price when they’re on multi-buy, or products on discount for longer than they were sold at the higher price.

If you believe an offer has been misleading, it would be advisable to gather any evidence you can. 

Take date-marked photographs of the product before and during the offer, and keep your receipts.

4 Report it to the supermarket

Let the supermarket in question know your concerns and send it a copy of the evidence you've gathered. 

If the offer was accompanied by statements you feel were misleading, such as 'amazing value', then you may, depending on the circumstances, be able to argue that there has been a misrepresentation. 

You will need to show that the wording surrounding the offer was inaccurate and induced you into buying the product, therefore entering into the contract. 

5 Contact Trading Standards

Unfortunately, there isn’t an ombudsman you can go to if you have a complaint about a supermarket.  

However, if you think a company could be breaching the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations, you can contact your local trading standards department.

Bear in mind, though, that your local trading standards department's role is to address the issue with the supermarket or retailer, not to get your money back.

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