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Campaigns | Misleading pricing

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Win! Government announces plans to crack down on misleading supermarket pricing

15th October

The government today came out in support of our super-complaint on misleading pricing, announcing plans to end the confusion around supermarket prices.

The announcement is in response to the Competition and Markets Authority's (CMA) investigation into our super-complaint into misleading pricing practices employed by supermarkets.

Misleading pricing super-complaint

We used our special legal powers to call on the CMA to investigate the misleading promotional practices we've highlighted over the last seven years. These included dodgy multi-buys, shrinking products and exaggerated discounts.

In its investigation the CMA found examples of promotional practices that have the potential to mislead consumers and made a number of recommendations.

The government has accepted all of those recommendations and has announced plans to strengthen the rules.

Consumer minister Nick Boles said:

'Shoppers need to be able to get the best deal and make comparisons easily so we will look at how we can make information on price as clear and as simple as possible.'

Win for 200,000 supporters

Our executive director Richard Lloyd said:

'It's good to see the Government supporting our super-complaint and committing to end the confusion around supermarket pricing by strengthening the rules.'

This is a big win for the more than 200,000 people who support our campaign. We now need these changes to be implemented without delay so that you're no longer subjected to misleading pricing practices.

Richard Lloyd added: 'Cracking down on dodgy offers will be good for consumers and competition.'


Special offers that don’t stack up - Which? research

We've found more evidence of dodgy special offers, including some that appear to be breaking government guidelines.

Following our super-complaint to the regulator on misleading pricing, our research reveals more examples of the pricing tactics retailers use to create the illusion of savings that don't exist. Special offers are big business: two-thirds of shoppers say they’d bought grocery items on a discount offer in the past month, while six in 10 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.'

Continuing offers

We found examples where products are 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. We believe tactics like these are potentially breaking government guidelines on special offers.

For example, in Morrisons, a 2 litre bottle of Pepsi Max was on a '£1, was £1.98' special offer for 63 days, after being on sale at the higher price for only 28 days.

​​Misleading multibuy​s​

We also found multibuy offers which didn’t save customers any money or, in some cases ended up costing more.

For example, Asda increased the price of Robinsons Orange Fruit Squash (1 litre) from £1 to as much as £1.59 while on ‘2 for £2.50’, creating the illusion of a saving but actually costing shoppers 50p more when buying it on offer. 

Shrinking products

We saw more evidence of shrinking products, another sneaky way of increasing prices.

For example, a box of 100 Twinings Assam tea bags was £4.40 in Tesco but when the pack shrunk to 80, the price increased to £4.49. In Sainsbury’s the price of the tea bags remained the same (£4.50) despite the loss of 20 tea bags.


Multibuys don't always save you money

Our research has revealed that supermarket multibuy deals aren't always as good as you might be led to believe.

Customers feel misled by supermarket prices - Which? tells supermarkets to ‘Price it Right’

Our research shows that 74% of people think supermarkets try to mislead them with confusing prices. Many supermarkets provide unit prices (the price per kilo or per litre) that are difficult to spot or, in some cases, impossible to compare between brands.

Can you trust supermarket special offers?

Our research has revealed a whole range of supermarket tactics designed to make bargains look unmissable when, in fact, we don’t think they were really bargains at all.
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