Watchdogs demands new practices
Supermarkets ‘misleading’ shoppers over pricing
After a three-month investigation the Competition and Markets Authority has recommended a number of measures to bring greater clarity to the sector, including government-supported guidelines on best practice.
The investigation was launched after a super-complaint from the consumer group Which?, which contended that pricing practices in the supermarket industry were “misleading and opaque”.
As part of its probe the CMA found examples of “pricing and promotional practices that have the potential to confuse or mislead consumers”. Where there is evidence of breaches of consumer law this could lead to enforcement action. However, it concluded that the problems are not widespread and systematic.
Nisha Arora, CMA Senior Director, Consumer, said: “We welcomed the super-complaint, which presented us with information that demanded closer inspection.
“We have gathered and examined a great deal of further evidence over the past 3 months and are now announcing what further action we are taking and recommending others to take.
“We have found that, whilst supermarkets want to comply with the law and shoppers enjoy a wide range of choices, with an estimated 40% of grocery spending being on items on promotion, there are still areas of poor practice that could confuse or mislead shoppers.
“So we are recommending further action to improve compliance and ensure that shoppers have clear, accurate information.”
In reponse to the report Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: “The CMA’s report confirms what our research over many years has repeatedly highlighted: there are hundreds of misleading offers on the shelves every day that do not comply with the rules.
“This puts supermarkets on notice to clean up their pricing practices or face legal action.
“Given the findings, we now expect to see urgent enforcement action from the CMA.
“The Government must also quickly strengthen the rules so that retailers have no more excuses.
“As a result of our super-complaint, if all the changes are implemented widely, this will be good for consumers, competition and, ultimately, the economy.”