Online price changesSupermarkets rapped over unclear online prices

16 March 2006

Supermarkets have promised to give shoppers clearer information about the prices of their online groceries.

It follows complaints to the (OFT) that consumers were ordering goods at one price but then paying more when the shopping arrived on the doorstep.

Last July, Which? revealed how several readers had ordered wine from Tesco's website for GBP 9.75. But when it arrived, the price had doubled.

The problems occur because Asda, Sainsbury, Tesco, and Waitrose use guide prices on their websites to show the prices of goods in their stores on the day the order is placed.

OFT says prices must be clear

But in most cases, customers pay whatever the price is on the day the goods are packed for delivery - which may be different.

Peter McCarthy, Senior Lawyer at Which? Legal Service, said: 'A trader is allowed to say the price of the goods will be set when they're dispatched as long as the consumer has the right not to buy if the price has changed.

'In practice, though, if you only discover at short notice that the cost has risen, or a special offer's expired, you may have little choice but to agree to pay the extra. It's good news that the supermarkets have agreed to make clearer the way in which their online shopping services work.'

The OFT believes the websites didn't make it 'sufficiently clear' that the prices shown were only guide prices and the prices could change.

Asda, Sainsbury's, Tesco, Waitrose agreed

Asda, Sainsbury's, Tesco, Waitrose, and its partner Ocado, have now all agreed to provide upfront information about their guide price policies and how the online shopping process works. They've also agreed that special offer prices quoted online will be treated as firm prices for orders delivered within the offer period.

John Fingleton, OFT Chief Executive, said: 'Customers have a right to clear and transparent information upfront when making their buying decisions.'

For more information on Which? Legal Service, including how to join, call 0800 252 100 or look at its website.