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4 Mar 2022

John Lewis to scrap 'Never Knowingly Undersold' price promise this summer

The department store says it will expand its new low-priced range instead

Shoppers will no longer be able to claim through John Lewis' famous 'Never Knowingly Undersold' price-match policy when the department store retires it this summer, after nearly a century.

Since the policy only offers to price-match rivals with a high-street presence, and not online-only retailers, John Lewis says it is 'no longer enough' and it 'applies to fewer and fewer sales'.

The policy will end this summer, with an exact date to follow closer to the time.

Here, we look at what this means for shoppers, and explain which other retailers offer price-match guarantees.

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What is 'Never Knowingly Undersold'?

Introduced in 1925 when there were just two John Lewis stores, the 'Never Knowingly Undersold' policy meant the retailer would match the prices of local shops if a customer found one of its products cheaper elsewhere.

Nearly 100 years later, customers can still ask John Lewis to price-match a product if they find it cheaper in another shop or on another website, but it only applies to shopping at the brand's 'high street competitors'. So if you find a better price for an identical toaster at your local Currys or on the Currys website, John Lewis should match it - but it won't match prices from the likes of Amazon or eBay.

The 'Never Knowingly Undersold' slogan is relatively well-known, and has held great appeal for shoppers who want to buy from John Lewis in order to receive longer product guarantees and the retailer's great customer service but pay a lower price.

However, John Lewis says less than 1% of customers actively made price-match requests in 2021.

What will replace it?

It's not quite a new policy per se, but John Lewis is saying everyday 'Quality & Value' will replace its old slogan.

The brand has pledged a £500m investment to help it 'more proactively lead on great value'. John Lewis says this is 25% more than what it spent last year on keeping prices down.

So just how low will prices be? We don't have a definitive answer yet, but John Lewis says that'Quality & Value' will build on its recently introduced ANYDAY line of own-brand goods. Launched in spring 2021, ANYDAY products range from towels (£2) to T-shirts (£6) to high chairs (£35), and are available online and in store at John Lewis and Waitrose.

It's also worth noting that the retailer says its famous product guarantees (including two years on electricals and five years on TVs) will remain in place.

Despite the reassurances, if it's no longer pledging to price match competitors, this does of course free up John Lewis to charge more than its rivals for certain products without having to refund the difference to customers who notice. Over the coming months, Which? will keep an eye on John Lewis' pricing to see whether this happens.

Which other stores offer to price-match?

It might be one of the most famous, but John Lewis isn't the only retailer with a price-match promise.

There's no telling whether John Lewis throwing in the towel may lead others to do the same, but here are some of the shops that still have price-match guarantees at the moment.

Online electrical and appliance store AO.com says it will price-match any items it sells against any retailer, even if products are discounted. This includes websites, but only from 'retailers based in the UK, selling UK products'.

Outdoor retailer Blacks promises not only to match prices but to beat them by 10%, though some retailers, including JD Sports, are excluded.

You can use the Currys price promise to match UK online and offline retailers. This includes matching discount codes.

Other stores offering price-matching include Halfords, Richer Sounds and even eBay. But check carefully before you shop, as every price-match guarantee will have terms and conditions that could exclude certain items.

How do I compare prices?

Many people use price-matching so they can shop with their preferred retailer - perhaps because it has a better guarantee, returns policy, or delivery options - while paying the lower price offered by a different store. After all, you'd just buy it from wherever you found it cheapest if all you cared about was price.

Whatever your motive, to find out if an item is cheaper somewhere else, you'll need to compare prices across multiple stores.

Price-match guarantees usually only apply if products are exactly the same, right down to size and colour. You can search for an item on Google, or on a rival retailer's website, but it might be quite fiddly to get an exact match. Try typing in the entire product name or code if you do have trouble.

Alternatively, you can use a shopping price comparison website like PriceRunner, PriceSpy or Idealo to see how much certain products cost across multiple retailers. You can also get sites like these to notify you when items you want to buy drop in price, potentially opening up a price-matching opportunity for you.

But be warned: if you do use these sites, it's worth checking a few of them. A recent Which? investigation found that different shopping comparison sites found different 'cheapest' prices for the same items. We also found that some stores listed on comparison sites gave incorrect information about your refund and replacement rights.