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Fake Farms – A bad country smell that won’t go away…

You might remember a story about Tesco “fake farms” from March? Tesco launched a series of new “farm” ranges. It was widely reported that people felt duped into thinking that a) they were real farms where the products were coming from and b) that they were buying British. I went about doing some more research and challenged Tesco CEO Dave Lewis several times on the matter on this issue. Some of these farms were similar sounding to existing farms too. I mean really similar!

Tesco Name  –  Woodside Farms    

Woodside Farm (Derbyshire)
Woodside Farm (Bedfordshire)
Woodside Farm (Nottingham b & b)
Woodside Farm (Nottingham)
Woodside Farm (Cork)

Tesco Name  –  Willow Farms 
Willows Farm (Skegness)
Willow Farm (Hertfordshire)

Tesco Name  –  Boswell Farms
Boswell Farm  (Devon)

Unique
Suntrail Farms
Rosedene Farms
Redmere Farms
Nightingale farms

One even has the same name!

Woodside Farms is in Jersey and you know what? It even sells to supplying the Co-op and Waitrose in Jersey and Guernsey it is also available in SandpiperCI group food stores, including Iceland, in both Jersey and Guernsey. So, not only has Tesco used names similar to those that exist, it has also used the exact name of a farm that actually supplies to three supermarkets. I asked the Tesco CEO to comment on this but bizarrely he as yet has failed to provide any.

Woodside Farm in Cork was keen to let people know that they were nothing to do with supplying Tesco, tweeting, for example;

Fake farms Tesco

People expressed their displeasure with the marketing ploy:

Tesco fake farm tweet

Others showed their displeasure with irony and humour:

Fake farm Tesco post by The Complaining Cow

Farms took to Twitter to show how they feel insulted:

Fake farm tesco post by Helen Dewdney

Matt Simister Commercial Director
On You and Yours on the 6th July 2016 Tesco said that 2/3 of customers have tried the range but this doesn’t mean that they understood that the brand was not necessarily British. On the programme customers spoke of how they felt misled. One person spoke about how she bought some Rosedene strawberries and saw that they were British and deliberately bought Rosedene apples thinking that they would also be British, believing Rosedene to be a British farm. However, the Rosedene apples were grown in South Africa. And what of the other third of Tesco customers? Another spoke of her disappointment at not being able to buy British, particularly when Tesco had clearly chosen British sounding farm names.

Matt Simister, Commercial Director, Fresh Food and Commodities said that most of the produce comes seasonally from the UK but goes overseas when out of season or not grown in the UK. When asked what proportion comes from the UK, he was unable to answer the question.

He also said that sales were really good and have stayed good and didn’t answer Winifred Robinson’s question regarding whether they would make any changes given the feedback for customers, choosing instead to focus on quality that customers can trust…

[Tweet “Tesco CEO challenged in 3 emails/1 interview on CPUT Regs, marketing, due diligence #fakefarms”]

A challenge to the Tesco CEO

The Complaining Cow asks Tesco Dave Lewis about fake farms
I decided to challenge Tesco CEO, Dave Lewis, on this (See Tesco history – this isn’t the first time 🙂  and so wrote to him several times on the issue. I had to return to the matter several times as I didn’t find his replies satisfactory. The points raised were:

1) Believing that the labelling is a breach of Regulation 5 of the Consumer Protection From Unfair Trading Regs (misleading action) which is an offence under Regulation 9. By default it is also a breach of Regulation 3 (professional diligence) which is an offence under Regulation 8.

What matters under Reg 5 is not whether it is factually correct, but it is the overall impression that counts. Misleading practices – through the information the practice contains or its deceptive presentation, it causes, or is likely to cause, the average consumer to take a different transactional decision. A breach of this Act is a £5000 fine and/or imprisonment for each breach. It also causes what’s called a ‘community infringement’ which means Trading Standards can hit a trader with Part 8 of the Enterprise Act (Enforcement Orders) which means that even if a trader gets a hefty fine under CPUTRs then they could also get an Enforcement Order against them and they can go to prison for longer than under a prosecution.

2) Whilst I may want to buy tomatoes all year round, I don’t want to believe that I am buying from a British farm when I am not. It may well say the country of origin but in far bigger, more noticeable letters is the name “Woodside Farms” or one of the other names. One could argue that one only starts to look at country or origin if they doubt the labelling. So there you have it, people trust the British farm-sounding label as a British farm or they already don’t trust Tesco and look to the country of origin! And why is the animal being reared in Holland and slaughtered in Germany anyway?

3) I do not believe that this is Tesco being transparent. It is marketing and whether customers know that or not they don’t like it.

4) What happened to due diligence? Surely, that would have highlighted that there were farms with very similar and in one case exactly the same names?

5) How much does Tesco pay Trading Standards for the advice it provides (could it be possible that Trading Standards won’t prosecute a company which is paying it?)

Dave Lewis response
Well, there were 3 of them (told you I kept going back to him! Well he did tell me a couple of years ago to keep complaining it was the only way Tesco would improve!) But the main points here were:

1) “This all comes back to the wider point that good marketing can polarise opinion. We’ve seen the debate, and understand it, but the most important thing for us is what customers think. That’s why we developed the new brands with customers in mind, and we continue to listen to them now”.

2) “While they told us that they understood that a single farm couldn’t possibly supply Tesco, they did say it was important that we work in partnership with growers and farmers who stick to strict quality standards. We do, and when the market was updated in May, I said that more than 95% of the commentary from customers has been neutral or positive about the action they’ve taken. The country of origin is clearly labelled on all the products and we’re completely transparent about where the products come from.”

[Tweet “”… we’re completely transparent about where the products come from” Tesco CEO Dave Lewis”]

3) “In addition to listening to customers, we completed legal due diligence on the brand names in relation to intellectual property, as you’d expect.”

4) “Thanks also for your comments on our Woodside Farms brand. As with all our seven new brands, this is a brand rather than a business, and this particular brand is focused on providing customers with great quality, affordable pork products. As above, we did due diligence for this brand.”

5) “We named our brands to represent the quality of our fresh food and history of working closely with suppliers, not after existing farms. Hertfordshire Trading Standards – charges on a cost recovery basis for advice given, which is a typical way for them to fund this service.” They don’t believe we are misleading consumers in relation to their purchasing decision on these brands.”

6) “The wider point here is that creating brands in this way is not at all uncommon in food marketing. Some of the UK’s most iconic and popular food brands have been created in a similar way. Customers do completely understand this – they are much more marketing literate than they’re given credit for. My experience of Tesco customers is that they are among the most savvy in Britain – and they do understand that all the products come from farms.”

Update 15/09/16 Then I asked him again in an interview: (see The Complaining Cow interviews Tesco bosses for more details and full interview)

Tesco | Complaining Cow meets Dave Lewis and Matt Davies

[Tweet “”The performance of the farm brands has been fantastic” Dave Lewis Tesco CEO”]

So clearly, Tesco see the whole thing as acceptable marketing despite the public and media reports on the lack of transparency and it being misleading. Is it patronising to customers who do just accept it and/or insulting to those feel they are misled to say that they are “among the most savvy in Britain”? I might well understand that it is from a farm but I still don’t like the way it is misleading thank you very much.

Advertising Standards Authority
Their response was simply “I’m sorry to tell you that despite receiving a few complaints about this issue we are not entitled to deal with complaints of this nature because it relates to material that is not covered by the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising Practice, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing.

We would consider this to constitute the labelling on a product, and as you can see from section II – m of the Code on our website, our remit does not cover labels or packaging.”

National Farmers Union
According to Tesco and other supermarkets using fake farm brands spark complaint from NFU in The Independent 19/07/16  three in five people who said they believed such products were “definitely” or “probably” British admitted that they would feel misled if they were informed that it came from overseas, according to a YouGov survey commissioned by the NFU. In a survey in the Independent readers were asked “Do you mind that Tesco uses fictitious farms in its branding?” 82% said “Yes it’s misleading.“

The NFU has taken its complaints to national Trading Standards. However I have also already done that and the response showed that it was going to do little to address the issue, so it will be interesting to see if the NFU get the same response.

Trading Standards Response
“I think that whilst I can see that there is controversy, the retailer in cases such as this could rely on the label names being brands as opposed to them being illustrative of geographical locations.

These labels they say ‘farm’. The origin of the products is likely to have been a farm. They refer to fictional named farms, and I can see that some assert that this misleads because it gives the impression that the farm sounds British. I think this is the central issue but I think it would be difficult to persuade a judge that these fictional names suggest a clear geographical origin to the purchaser (especially when on the same small label, the country of production is included).

If the label had said Essex Farms or Wiltshire Farms or some other name linked to a geographical location then perhaps it would be worth examining”.

Update 20/12/16 Tesco on track to increase fake farms

So what do you think? Misleading? Think items are British? Now you know many aren’t will you still buy? Do you buy because the quality and value is good but you still don’t like the ethics?

I look forward to hearing your views!

You can contact the UK Tesco CEO or Group CEO here

History with Tesco links to all the posts over the last few years where I have complained, taken them to court, met With Dave Lewis..

For the full interview see The Complaining Cow interviews Dave Lewis & Matt Davies.

 

Categories
Supermarkets

Tesco – Phillip Clarke is no Sir Terry Leahy

And a few years on we have Dave Lewis as the new group CEO and Matt Davies as the UK CEO being interviewed by me! (Although Tesco had full editorial control):

Tesco | Complaining Cow meets Dave Lewis and Matt Davies

For links to lots more recent stories about Tesco and me including taking them to court and winning see Complaining Cow history with Tesco.

For the whole story so far see Case study: Tesco and a consumer champion

Tesco UK CEO email address

Tesco Group CEO email address

The post below is from 2012.

I had a right beef with Tesco! 

Tesco Service Omnishambles!

Diabolical! It was my latest dealings with Tesco Customer Service that gave me the final nudge to get this Blog started!

Update January 2015

I have realised that when you put “Tesco Complaints” into Google that this post comes up. Hilarious really. Since writing this post I have had more dealings with Tesco, including taking them to Court. Please see links to all these posts The Complaining Cow and Tesco history

Also people will insist on assuming that they can complain to me as if I were a Tesco employee. Rather foolish and obviously shows that they haven’t even read this post! Also, gives some indication perhaps as to why their complaint is being ignored by Tesco if they  don’t actually read things or are simply rude!

Tesco contacts for complaints

I also keep being asked for contact details for Tesco so here you are:

Tesco contact details:

email for customer services: customer.services@tesco.co.uk
email for CEO here
All Tesco departments contact details here. ‘phone numbers and addresses.

If you are looking for how to complain to Tesco, see the links are above and you might also be interested in using the book How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

Tesco – Phillip Clarke is no Sir Terry Leahy

Years ago I complained to Tesco when Tesco was doing well and when Sir Terry Leahy was CEO there. I got a personal response that was signed by him. One can assume that as the new incumbent Phillip Clarke  ignored several emails from me and the customer service is shambolic, that contempt for the customer is creeping in, perhaps a very good reason why Tesco has slipped from its top position.

Summary (all correspondence available on request!):

4th June took items ordered from Tesco Clothing online back to the store for refund. Had used double up vouchers. Customer Services representative did not know what to do and had to telephone Tesco. I was told that he needed to “…give [me] a few pennies and that somewhere between £5 and £10 will be credited to [my] account.” Told him not acceptable! More confusion and went back after shopping and was given misinformation and nothing in writing although I requested it.
4th June wrote to Clubcard no reply
12th June forwarded email to Customer Services requesting something done, pointing out that doubling up vouchers offer ended on the 13th June and £5 was still in the Clothing website account incorrectly, it should be on the Clubcard or £10 in Clothing otherwise it was a credit note and not a full refund
13th June forwarded email to Phillip Clarke Tesco CEO requesting something done
14th June Tweeted to Tesco and after several Tweets sent details on
15th June and got a reply that did not relate to the complaint but a previous one and made no sense!
15th June Tweeted as such to Tesco and emailed back. Told back in touch as soon as possible
15th June – received email stating that she was unable to work out what complaint to respond to (despite the actual email being in the body of the email and nothing else in the original email!) Offered £20
17th June – wrote back attaching the relevant email again and pointing out that I had now missed website offers due to their delay in responding
18th June – still no response
19th June in the evening – Tweeted that still not had response
19th June – Tesco told me email was in the queue. Reminded them that my original email was dated 4th June! Told that the manager could ‘phone but couldn’t email! Asked for that bizarre state of affairs to be added to the list of complaints! (Was never explained why she could ‘phone but not email!)
19th June – told would get a response by email soon as possible
21st June – still no response. Told would get that one that morning
21st June PM – got an email from the Executive team offered £40 Tesco Moneycard apologised but did not address all complaints, I emailed back as did he no further forward.
26th June – received an email from the Customer Relations Manager at Tesco apologising and saying that the CEO office had responded. I emailed back pointing out the 2 issues regarding not being able to take advantage of offers on the website due to the delay in responding had not been addressed
28th June – received email from Executive Office stating surprise that I had said 2 issues were not addressed and I had copied and pasted a paragraph from previous email which did not address them!
3rd July  – sent a clarification email, I also asked if he would like a link when my Blog was up and running!
6th July – agreed in part with what I said (he had no choice, I was left with money in my Clothing account against their own policy!) that’s the end of this matter at last. Would have been at the £40 but he went and wrote to me suggesting I was wrong and he certainly wasn’t going to get away with THAT!

I asked if they would like to pay me for my knowledge and experience of customer service and how they could improve. They declined my offer! How very silly!

Evaluation

This was a sorry state of customer service. So many people wasting so much of my time! So many not given the right tools. It reflects badly on Tesco too when you think this is how the CEO of Sainsbury’s responds to a complaint. A different league in CEOs from a customer’s point of view I’m sure you’ll agree?!

As you can see, it wasn’t about gaining money it was about the principle of the thing. Annoyingly I went to Tesco to use the Moneycard so I could then take my custom in future to Sainsbury’s and forgot to use the card! Dozy cow! But the next time I went I bought just over £40 of shopping had a £4 off voucher used a £10 Tesco gift card (I have forgotten what I complained about to get that!!) and the £40 card. £13 left. £40 worth of shopping and get £13 change! Amooooosed me!

Seriously though, in May of this year Which? published a Customer Service survey of 11,000 people. Tesco came 4th worst!  A change in focus from the new CEO at Apple from customer to revenue (remember Steve Jobs’ legacy Good enough is not good enough) is not helping their profits either!

 

Update to this post. Do have a look at the other Tesco posts some are more amusing 🙂