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

National Consumer Week 2nd November 2015

Knowyournewrightsgraphic1Week beginning 2nd November is National Consumer Week. Citizens Advice, Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills today launch National Consumer Week and are urging people to get to know their new consumer rights as Christmas shopping gets underway.

Faulty goods, misleading claims and substandard services mean Christmas presents fly back on to the shelves in January, according to new figures from Citizens Advice. Analysis by the charity shows that people are more likely to call its Consumer Service helpline with complaints about items such as toys, computer games and jewellery in January than any other time of year.

The findings reveal that complaints to the Citizens Advice Consumer Service about toys doubled in January 2015 in comparison to the rest of the year, while problems with DVDs, video games, games consoles, and sound systems rose by two thirds.

The top five most complained about personal goods in January 2015 were:

  • Tablets, notebooks and laptops hit the number one spot. Last January saw 850 complaints, one third higher than the rest of the year.

  • Women’s clothing – complaints rose by a fifth

  • Televisions – the helpline saw a third more enquiries.

  • Toys – toys had the biggest increase in complaints, which were more than double than any other time of the year

  • Jewellery –  complaints increased by two fifths

Complaints were most likely to be about defective goods, while one in seven people contacted the service because of misleading claims and descriptions about their purchase. One in twenty complained that businesses didn’t honour their cancellation rights.

Citizens Advice has developed a ‘Know Your Rights’ guide explaining the big changes to consumer law that Christmas shoppers should know.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Buying gifts should be hassle-free but not everyone gets what they pay for. Too often, we hear from people with problem purchases struggling to get the replacement or refund that they deserve. Clearer consumer rights will make it easier for shoppers to know what they are entitled to, so if a Christmas gift isn’t up to scratch, they know how to get their money back. Citizens Advice urges people to do their homework before they hit the shops this Christmas and make sure they know their rights if they have problems with their purchases”.

Consumer Minister Nick Boles said: “Whether downloading music or buying a fridge freezer, the new Consumer Rights Act makes it easier for shoppers to understand their rights and simplifies the law for businesses. UK consumers spend £90 billion a month and the “Know your New Rights Campaign” will help them to shop with confidence.”

Leon Livermore, CTSI Chief Executive, said: “Retailers are responsible for training their staff but consumers should spend a few minutes familiarising themselves with the new laws too. Consumers who know their rights shop with confidence, saving time and money, which is good for all concerned. People should consider their rights whenever they make a purchase but they may wish to take extra care at Christmas. Nobody wants to give or receive a defective product but it is important to know how to resolve any issues, should they arise.”

Fraser Sutherland, Consumer spokesman for Citizens Advice Scotland, said: “By releasing these figures now, we are sending a message to Scotland’s consumers ahead of this year’s Christmas shopping. You have new rights to protect you against scams and shoddy goods. You don’t have to put up with second-rate smoothie-makers or terrible toys. If it doesn’t work or is of poor quality you have a right to have a refund. If you are unsure of your rights, visit our website or talk to your local Citizens Advice.”

Marcus Williamson, Editor of the consumer information website CEOemail.com, which provides contacts details for the CEO of any company, said “Knowing your rights is an important part of shopping, whether at Christmas or any other time. We would recommend consumers understand the new law, so that they can take the necessary steps if things go wrong after they’ve bought a product or service. Thank you to CAB for their valuable ‘Know your New Rights’ Campaign.”

Anyone who needs advice on goods and services they have purchased can call the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06, or online at www.citizensadvice.org.uk. More information can be found on this website including the book How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, redress and Results! which provides advice, guidance, tips, laws and template letters.

A series of videos made for Citizens Advice Bureau for Consumers Week.