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Supermarket pricing can be "confusing" and "misleading", says CMA

Supermarket pricing can be "confusing" and "misleading", says CMA

Probe finds dodgy supermarket promotions need clearing up.

Reena Sewraz

Household money

Reena Sewraz
Updated on 16 July 2015

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has criticised some supermarket pricing as "confusing" and "misleading" following a three-month probe.

The investigation was launched after consumer group Which? filed a super-complaint in April earlier this year, which put evidence forward of dodgy price practices in the industry.

This consisted of four key issues, including potentially misleading special offers, unclear unit pricing, the influence of price matching schemes and shrinking pack sizes without a corresponding reduction in price.

For example, Which? found an instance where Tesco sold four cans of Green Giant Original Sweetcorn for £2, but six cans in a multi-buy promotion were proportionately more expensive at £3.56 (50p per can vs. 59p per can).

The findings

The CMA had 90 days to respond to the super-complaint and gathered information from retailers, manufacturers, shoppers, advice bodies and commissioned its own surveys.

It found examples of pricing and promotional practices that have the potential to "confuse or mislead" shoppers, which may be breaching consumer law and could lead to enforcement action.

However, the regulator said that the problems were not widespread and generally retailers were being compliant.

[SPOTLIGHT]But the CMA also found more could be done to reduce the complexity of unit pricing to make it easier for shoppers to compare prices effectively.

Recommendations

The supermarket industry was worth an estimated £148 to £178 billion to the UK economy in 2014.

The CMA said around 40% of grocery spending was on items on promotion, so it wanted to take action to improve compliance and make sure shoppers have clearer information.

To improve compliance the CMA also recommended that the Chartered Trading Standards Institute make clear how the law applies on promotional practices.

It’s also setting the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) the task of publishing clearer best practice guidelines for unit pricing and looking at clarifying the rules on how the law requires items to be unit-priced when on promotion.

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