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Putting an End to Misleading Prices Guest Post by Which?

Regular followers of this blog will know that I bang on about supermarkets a lot! See my many posts and communications with Tesco, last and current CEOs in History with Tesco, commenting on the radio about supermarket figures  and researching, writing and speaking about supermarkets most annoying habits in the media. In the latter, many complaints were about pricing. So I asked Which? to provide an update on their super complaint.

Putting an End to Misleading Prices 

Pete Moorey, Head of Campaigns at Which?
Pete Moorey, Head of Campaigns at Which?

For the past eight years Which? has time and time again found misleading pricing practices being used by supermarkets.

With £115bn spent on groceries and toiletries in 2013 alone, and 40% of groceries (by revenue) currently sold on promotion, dodgy deals could be costing British consumers hundreds of millions of pounds each year.

After raising the issue with industry only to receive a lack-lustre response we decided enough was enough and made use of our super-complaint powers.

The power to make a super-complaint is only held by a handful of organisations. Its purpose is to allow bodies to submit a complaint on any feature, or combination of features, of a market in the UK for goods or services which are, or appears to be significantly harming the interests of consumers.

Which? submitted a super-complaint on supermarket misleading pricing practices to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in April 2015. The complaint relayed our findings, evidence and concerns about the shrinking products, misleading special offers and dodgy multibuys offer we had found lining supermarket shelves across the UK.

On the submission of the super-complaint the CMA had 90 days to respond and make any recommendations if they believed there was a problem.

During those 90 days we were overwhelmed by the response of consumers. Many got in touch to tell us about the dodgy deals they had experienced whilst doing their shopping and 200,000 people signed our petition (you can still sign and support) to put an end to the misleading pricing practices.

But of course, whilst consumers were fed up with the dodgy deals and were making their voice heard, the outcome hung on the CMA. After weighing up the evidence, and finding hundreds of dodgy offers themselves, the CMA’s responded saying that there is a problem and that it did needs solving, a real win for consumers.

In a move which sent a strong message to supermarkets, the CMA announced a raft of positive recommendations to deal with several of the issues we had found.

In a nutshell these recommendations look to strengthen the guidelines around special offers, make unit pricing clearer so consumers can make informed decisions and tighten the pricing rules in general.

Several of these recommendations need to be implemented by Government who have since come out in support of the findings.

Consumer Minister Nick Boles welcomed the findings saying:
‘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.’

This is real progress, but Which? will be keeping a close eye to ensure tangible and positive changes are delivered by government and the CMA meaning consumers know when a deal is genuinely a good one.

For more information on our campaign to Put an End to Misleading Pricing visit the Which? website page.

By Pete Moorey, Head of Campaigns at Which?

If you have a complaint about misleading pricing in a supermarket see this advice by Which?

More on complaints about supermarket tactics to make us spend more here:

Radio 5live Breakfast Helen Dewdney talking supermarket tactics to make you buy more