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Which? launch new campaign against misleading supermarket pricing

Which? launches new campaign as latest research reveals that supermarkets are still selling products with dodgy discounts and misleading multibuys.

Rising food prices are one of the top worries for consumers, with four in 10 (40%) saying they are likely to cut back spending on food in the next few months. In their latest investigation in to supermarket special offers, eight in 10 (81%) told Which? they are looking out for deals in supermarkets to help them save money.

However, Which? found that supermarkets are still selling products with special offers that don’t give shoppers a real deal. 

They analysed more than 70,000 grocery prices and found examples of misleading multibuys that could cost you more and dodgy discounts where the offer ran for much longer than the item was at the higher price. 

Among the examples Which? found was a Sainsbury’s special offer which sold Carex Aloe Vera & Eucalyptus Moisturising Antibacterial Handwash (250ml) at a higher price of £1.80 for seven days, and then on offer at “was £1.80 now 90p” for 84 days. Ocado sold a 12 pack of Beck’s Bier as “was £12.19 now £9” for almost a month but had only sold at the higher price of £12.19 for three days, 18 days before the offer started.

They also found some misleading multibuys in Asda which didn’t save customers any money or, in some cases ended up costing more. The supermarket increased the regular price of Muller Light Greek Style Yoghurt (4 x 120g) from £1.50 to £2.18 as it went on a “2 for £4” offer, costing shoppers £1 more. It also increased the regular price of Uncle Ben’s Express Basmati rice (250g) from £1 to £1.58 as it went on a “2 for £3” offer and then returned the rice to £1 when the offer ended.

One year after the Government attempted to clarify the rules, and eight of the leading supermarkets signed up to the new guidance, dodgy discounts and misleading multibuys are still being found in the supermarkets. Which? is launching a new campaign putting the supermarkets on notice to ‘Make Special Offers Special’.

Which? want:

  •  The supermarkets to put an end to misleading special offers
  • The Government to make the rules for special offers simpler, clearer and stricter
  • Tougher enforcement action to clamp down on rule breaking supermarkets

 If these changes are not made swiftly, then Which? will consider using its formal legal powers to ensure this poor practice is tackled.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:

“We’ve found dodgy discounts across the aisles, and with rising food prices hitting shoppers’ budgets hard we think supermarkets are not playing fair. The stores have had long enough to sort their act out, so we’re saying enough is enough, it’s time to Make Special Offers Special.”

Leon Livermore, chief executive for the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) said: "With the ever increasing cost of living; special offers and deals can often determine what the shopper buys and where from. Consumers trust supermarkets to be honest brokers on their special offers, and greater transparency within the industry would increase consumer confidence."  

Which? is asking consumers to pledge their support for the campaign to help “Make Special Offers Special”.

Notes to editors

1. To investigate the dodgy deals, Which? analysed at least six months’ worth of pricing data from 1 January to June 2013 from independent shopping website MySupermarket.co.uk. They looked at 75 products across five supermarkets, although not all were available in all supermarkets. They have selected a snapshot of examples that illustrate different pricing problems within this period. They also surveyed 1,906 UK residents, online from 7th to 8thAugust 2013. Data were weighted to be representative of the UK population.

2. A separate report on food prices, called ‘Cutting back and trading down’, published by Which? today reveals two thirds (66%) of consumers believe they have been misled by an offer that wasn’t as good as it initially appeared. Populus, on behalf of Which?, surveyed 2,028 GB adults, of which 1,969 were grocery shoppers, online between 28 and 30 June 2013. Data were weighted to be representative of the GB population. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

3. The full report into supermarket special offer can be found here.

4. Find out how you can complain about a dodgy deal or misleading multibuy by visiting our Consumer Rights website.

Contact meera.khanna@which.co.uk 020 7770 7699 

DATE: 19 November 2013