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Supermarkets dupe consumers out of hundreds of millions

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Shopping trolleys outside a Tesco supermarket in north London. © AFP

The consumer group Which? is launching a so called super complaint that grocery stores are conning customers out of hundreds of millions of pounds through unethical and dodgy sales offers.

The consumer watchdog is handing over a dossier to the Competition and Markets Authority that has taken over seven years to compile, documenting evidence of prices aimed at misleading and confusing the customer.

The supermarkets have been accused of implying there are savings through the use of multi buys and ridiculous sales offers. The report found that 40% of groceries were sold on promotion. The emergence of discount shops like Aldi and Lidl has led to a surge in supermarkets having to adjust prices and enticing consumers through 'dodgy' prices and offers.

The executive director of Which?, Richard Lloyd said, "Despite Which? repeatedly exposing misleading and confusing pricing tactics, and calling for voluntary change by the retailers, these dodgy offers remain on numerous supermarket shelves."

A prime example of misleading savings was Tesco which flagged the special value of a sweetcorn six pack but in reality a smaller pack was proportionately cheaper. This was just one of several examples the consumer watchdog put forth as evidence.

The British Retail Consortium that represents many of the major supermarket chains doesn't feel the complaint is warranted. Their director of business and regulations said, "UK retailers are committed to treating their customers fairly and to avoid misleading them in any way. We do not accept the core implications set out in this super-complaint. The examples set out are very specific in nature and are not in any way indicative of broader systemic problems across the retail industry. With thousands of products and special offers in store every day, errors may from time-to-time occur, however these are rare in nature and are resolved quickly by the retailer concerned.”

It is estimated that nearly 40% of groceries are sold on promotion in Britain. Back in 2013, British consumers spent £115bn on groceries and toiletries.

Which? says British consumers could be collectively duped hundreds of millions of pounds.


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