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Which? responds to pricing super-complaint verdict

Supermarkets on notice to clean up their pricing

Misleading pricing

The CMA’s verdict puts supermarkets on notice to clean up their pricing practices

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has given its verdict on the Which? super-complaint into misleading pricing, putting supermarkets on notice to clean up their pricing practices or face legal action.

In its investigation the CMA found examples of promotional practices that have the potential to mislead consumers. These include supermarkets running ‘was/now’ promotions where the discounted price is advertised longer than the higher price. The CMA also uncovered what could be hundreds of promotions a day on the supermarket shelves in breach of consumer law. 

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: ‘The CMA’s report confirms what our research over many years has repeatedly highlighted: there are hundreds of misleading offers on the shelves every day that do not comply with the rules. This puts supermarkets on notice to clean up their pricing practices or face legal action.

‘Given the findings, we now expect to see urgent enforcement action from the CMA. The Government must also quickly strengthen the rules so that retailers have no more excuses.

‘As a result of our super-complaint, if all the changes are implemented widely, this will be good for consumers, competition and, ultimately, the economy.’

Pledge your support to our campaign against misleading pricing, to help us make sure that these changes are brought in.

Misleading and confusing pricing practices

Which? has been investigating supermarket pricing tactics for years, consistently finding practices that mislead and confuse consumers, including:

  • Supermarkets running ‘was/now’ pricing promotions, where the discount price is advertised for longer than the higher price. A 2 litre bottle of Pepsi Max was sold at £1.98 for 28 days but then went on a £1 ‘was £1.98’ offer for 63 days, which appears to break government guidelines. Similarly, McVitie’s Digestive Biscuits (500g) and McVitie’s Ginger Nuts (250g) were both sold at £1.09 for 29 days, then 98p (‘was £1.09’) for 81 days.
  • Inconsistent unit pricing, with some sauces in supermarkets priced per 100ml and on others per 100g making it impossible to make a price comparison. We also found cakes being priced per item or per 100g. Unit pricing needs to be made more consistent on products so consumers can use it effectively to make a price comparison between similar products.

We used data from independent shopping website mysupermarket.co.uk to find examples of misleading pricing practices used by retailers.

Which? super-complaint on misleading pricing

We believe retailers are baffling shoppers with a range of confusing pricing tactics, so we used our powers to lodge a super-complaint with the CMA in April 2015. 

Which? is one of a small number of consumer organisations with the legal powers to formally raise matters that may be significantly harming consumers’ interests with regulators, in the form of a super-complaint. It’s a power we only use after exhausting every other possible route to change businesses’ practices. 

More than 130,000 people have supported our super-complaint to the CMA.

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