Supermarkets fight back against voucher fraud

Alison Hunt
by Lovemoney Staff Alison Hunt on 29 September 2011  |  Comments 19 comments

Tesco and Sainsbury's have been clamping down on the fraudulent use of their vouchers - leaving some shoppers with a criminal record.

Supermarkets fight back against voucher fraud

Money-off vouchers used to be so simple. Mums would clip a 10p coupon from a loaf of Hovis and use it against the next loaf purchased. Simple.

But in recent years, in bid to get us through their doors, supermarkets have stuffed our wallets with a dizzying array of loyalty cards, vouchers and coupons, some with complicated rules for redemption.

Furthermore, in an attempt to lure customers from each other, some retailers have even allowed certain vouchers for rival supermarkets to be used in their stores. Some would accept coupons even if shoppers had not bought the product listed. Even hardened money-savers could be left confused!

Loyalty doesn’t pay

But many of us devised some simple tactics to get the most out of the retailers.

Joining all of the loyalty schemes and mixing up where you shop is a popular one. Sainsbury’s, for example, might register that you’re not being “loyal” and issue a few tempting “£5 off a £50 shop” vouchers to persuade you to come back in.

And many of us now regularly print our own money-off vouchers from retailer and money-saving websites in order to save a few quid.

Times are hard

And it all helps. The Institue of Promotional Marketing (IPM) reckons discount vouchers are saving us around £500m each year, which in these trying times makes a significant difference to the average household budget.

Indeed, the recently released August report from Asda’s Monthly Income Tracker, revealed that families in the UK are experiencing the biggest squeeze on household finances since the 1920s. The average family income in August 2011 dropped by a whopping £14 per week when compared to August 2010, which is the largest annual fall on record.

And the reasons are simple – the cost of food, clothing, petrol, diesel, gas and electricity are increasing rapidly, while wage increases remain slow. Add on rising unemployment and you realize things will probably get worse before they get better.

Using moneysaving vouchers and discount websites can really help us save some precious cash.

Indeed, many of us probably pat ourselves on the back when we discover some loophole that allows us to save a few more quid at the expense of the major retailers. After all, they can afford it, can’t they?

But the supermarkets are cottoning on.

Prosecutions for voucher mis-use

Last week, a female shopper in Wrexham was cautioned by police for fraudulent use of a discount voucher in a Sainsbury’s store. The shopper in question had printed a Unilever coupon several times using different names, and saved herself £150 off her shopping.

And back in July, a Cambridgeshire couple were sentenced to a 12-month community order and ordered to pay £500 in compensation after pleading guilty to obtaining almost £1,100 worth of free groceries from a Tesco store, by fraudulently re-using a voucher.

The couple had discovered that their issued £17.50 voucher would be accepted numerous times at a self-service checkout, and so re-used it a whopping 62 times!

Unfair treatment?

Some of us may argue that this treatment is harsh – after all, if retailers want to issue discount vouchers, isn’t it up to them to take the trouble to make sure they can only be used once?

How hard it is to take a coupon at the point of sale, or ban their use at self-service checkouts? Or make them bar-coded so they can only be scanned once? If they are used like cash, why not treat them like cash?

The law’s the law

But whatever you believe, the fact remains that if the terms and conditions state that each voucher must only be used once, by knowingly re-using them shoppers are potentially committing fraud, leaving the retailer well within his rights to prosecute.

What’s more, when a retailer accepts a coupon in payment for goods, a contract is made. If the retailer later realizes the terms and conditions have been breached, he is within his rights to claim damages from the consumer, meaning shoppers may be pursued even after having left the store.

Indeed, with voucher fraud reportedly having cost retailers £300m last year, you can understand why some are starting to take action, and even considering discontinuing their use.

Stick to the terms and conditions

My advice? Read the terms and conditions for each voucher carefully and stick to them – fraud is fraud and the last thing we want to hear about is readers being prosecuted!

More: The sneaky way Tesco funds price drops |Why I'll never shop at Asda again

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Comments (19)

  • paulie65
    Love rating 0
    paulie65 said

    What about if you pay by cash and don't use any loyalty cards???

    Report on 29 September 2011  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • LandOfConfusion
    Love rating 67
    LandOfConfusion said

    My local Asda won't let people redeem more than 3 vouchers :-(. Still, Tesco's is just down the road from them :-)

    Report on 29 September 2011  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • electricblue
    Love rating 769
    electricblue said

    Oh yeah, we are back in the Great Depression of the thirties again......somehow I think not. People don't have the money to buy all the cr*p they didn't need in the first place on the credit cards they should never have used. It's a tragedy. Somehow, as a Yorkshireman, I have an inkling that the whining is mainly from a bunch of irresponsible Southerners whose current negative equity and financial problems arose from their own greed and stupidity.

    Report on 29 September 2011  |  Love thisLove  3 loves
  • r
    Love rating 98
    r said

    electricblue . . . . . how true !

    Report on 29 September 2011  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • Mike10613
    Love rating 626
    Mike10613 said

    @electricblue, I'm not a waster from down south or a northerner; I live in the Midlands. I knew there would be an advantage one day! I hardly ever see money off coupons except for Farmfoods. I think you have to waste money on newspapers and magazines to get them... I get news from Reuters and France 24 or the website of my local newspaper. Twitter is free too!

    Report on 29 September 2011  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • onthecomputer
    Love rating 78
    onthecomputer said

    @electricblue I'm from South and have no debt, matter of fact I am fairly well off and am not worried about the recession, my life style won't change and if it does it will be for the better. So I suggest you stop whining about Southerns and look a bit closer to home! Obviously you can't afford a thing.

    Report on 29 September 2011  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
    Love rating 0 said

    @electricblue... not all southerners are debt ridden. I bought a London council flat in the early 90's. Sold it at the peak for an obscene profit and managed to get a nice 3 bed house on the south coast mortgage free. I am, however, concerned for my son who could have bought 2 houses up north for the price of 1 down south. (he inherited a little nest egg when his mother died).... hold on... he did buy 2 houses up north and now two yorkshire men are paying his southern house's mortgage.

    Report on 29 September 2011  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • oldhenry
    Love rating 343
    oldhenry said

    A pity Tesco are not taken to court for 'robbing' us blind on their price hikes. they will take advantage of any chance to increase a profit margain and care not whether the public an afford food or not.

    There are still many economies that people can make to their daily living habits. Forget paying for entertainment for a start, never buy food at a restaurant wher ethe profit margins are high. Never buy ready cooked food either. Obviously never smike and drink alcohol very sparingly. Go for walks for enjoyment and read books from the library. Do not be hyped into buying any latest gizmos.DVDs , best sellers or silly fashion clothes. Pretend it is wartime and ration yourselves, forget chocolate and sweets as they are rubbish anyway. Stick to fruit from teh market. Fight back at consumerism , toegther we can destroy the power of the maligant capitalism.

    Report on 29 September 2011  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • electricblue
    Love rating 769
    electricblue said

    Yeah, onethecomputer, I'm really struggling, that's why I'll be in Paris next month and at the home in California I jointly own with my US business partner in November. I didn't say that ALL Southerners were debt ridden, but I seem to have struck a nerve. We picked up a property in California which was a quarter of the price it sold for when new and the bank behind the development was RBS. There is a very silent majority who have been doing very nicely throughout this recession and my spectrum of friends ranges from those in business to those on benefits. Everyone complains a bit about the price of petrol and buys a few more low energy light bulbs, but this country really isn't too bad at all for those who didn't overreach. The voucher thing really gets out of hand these days and it takes longer at the supermarket than it did before bar codes and technology 'speeded things up'. I hope it doesn't get to be like the USA, where an inch thick bundle of vouchers from every competitor store is accepted and makes shopping a nightmare.

    Report on 29 September 2011  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • electricblue
    Love rating 769
    electricblue said

    Oldhenry - You must really be older than I thought, obviously remembering a time when all supermarkets were charities, caring only that their customers were well fed and could afford their goods. The only malignancy within capitalism is GREED. Consumers have the chance to show moral judgement, that's why I would never fly Ryan Air, but for many it's just the seduction of a supposed 'special offer' because greed and gullibility often go hand in hand.

    Report on 29 September 2011  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Washeavilyindebt
    Love rating 1
    Washeavilyindebt said

    onthecomputer didn't read your comments properly electricblue, just saw "Southerners" and got all defensive. I laughed anyway.

    Report on 30 September 2011  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • paddyIsleOfMan
    Love rating 1
    paddyIsleOfMan said

    i would like to see some comments on extreme couponing from the states, whats the difference, with there vouchers and how do they do their shop for FREE, or close too.

    yes i have to agree if a voucher should only be used once it's once and the store like you said is within its rights, so get us the info on extreme couponing please.

    Report on 30 September 2011  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • easygoing
    Love rating 170
    easygoing said

    I don't know how electricblue makes any money as he spends most of his time on this site winding people up. In fact I chose not to believe anything he says about himself any more as over the months his claims have become more and more ridiculous.

    If he is such a financial wizard what is he doing on this site anyway?

    Sorry electricblue but I am not going to be suckered in by your outrageous comments any more.

    Report on 30 September 2011  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • andrewjameshowar
    Love rating 26
    andrewjameshowar said

    You have to understand, electricblue is a self-confessed Yorshireman and thus does not speak straight from the mouth. Thus his utterances can be misleading.

    Report on 30 September 2011  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • electricblue
    Love rating 769
    electricblue said

    easygoing - what has this site got to do with financial wizadry? I work from home and mostly with customers in different time zones. I don't set out to make much money these days because I don't need to. I also have a pension and all my travels are on business. House in USA is on the Diablo Grande development, near Patterson in California. Instead of challenging me, you might like to ask RBS why they got involved and blew such a huge amount of money in backwater California. At least a Super WalMart is coming soon and should push house prices up by at least 10%.

    I've witnessed and been delayed for ages by the 'extreme couponing' at many checkouts in the USA, but have been fortunate that American girlfriends and my soon-to-be-ex-wife (American) were never that obsessed. Some stores only give special offers if you have a loyalty card, which is a pain if you are just there on vacation. Every flyer which comes through the door is full of coupons and many stores with take those of their competitors so you will routinely see someone get 20-40 dollars off a $100 shop. Grocery shopping seems horribly expensive these days in the USA, but I can only judge by California as it isn't often in recent years that I visit other states. People really seem to be struggling in the food stores, much more so than here. I don't know anyone who shops almost for free in the States and I've never seen that last minute 10% pricing which is common here. I would be very interested to hear of shopping experiences in mainland Europe, of which I know very little.

    Report on 03 October 2011  |  Love thisLove  1 love
  • hopefultom
    Love rating 50
    hopefultom said


    I don't wish to appear to be nitpicking, but as you have recently picked up others for spelling mistakes, you may wish to learn that there are two such mistakes in your last posting.

    Oh, and there is also a grammatical error ( "visit " should read "have visited" ) You are in the wrong tense old boy.

    Report on 06 October 2011  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Phyrefly
    Love rating 5
    Phyrefly said

    When do we get to fight back at the Supermarkets over THEIR fraud?

    I have a Tescos up the road from me. Every time I go there, at least one item is charged more than the ticket price, or a multibuy offer is not taken off at the till, or something similar. I have to hang around and wait for a manager, wait while they do some complicated stuff at the till, and get my money back after a long wait. And then they put the (incorrect) price tag back on the shelf, and carry on charging any customer who isn't checking his receipt, or feels that his time is worth more than the difference, too much for their groceries.

    So how is _knowingly_ (after the first incident) charging more than the ticket price for a customer's shopping, _not_ fraud?

    As long as the supermarkets can get away with just "putting it right" as a worst-case scenario, they have no reason to stop getting it wrong. Their worst-case scenario needs to be worse than the "neutral" that it currently is.

    Report on 07 October 2011  |  Love thisLove  2 loves
  • So What
    Love rating 2
    So What said

    E lad, electricblue, you are a true son of Yorkshire and the northern lands of this fair country, Those southerners don't know nowt. Them and their strange ways with money and then they go on about that there City of London, you can't beat the financial knowledge of a Yorkshire man just look at the towering strenghth of the HALIFAX bank or the superb running of the BRADFORD & BINGLEY building society. Oh and don't forget us in the NORTH gloat over what the NORTHERN ROCK building society has done for this country. Yes we know how to handle our money. Like you lad I also have property in America, also 2 yachts in Cannes and a property on the North (of course) shore in Sydney. Oh by the way another thing we have in common is that we BOTH LIVE ON MARS.

    Report on 07 October 2011  |  Love thisLove  2 loves
  • justinfd
    Love rating 0
    justinfd said

    I printed like a page worths from and daves didnt accept them, was so pissed.

    Report on 05 February 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves

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