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‘Misleading’ supermarket pricing tactics face ban as CMA prepares to respond to Which?’s super-complaint

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The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is set respond to Which?’s ‘super-complaint’ into supermarket pricing tactics this week.

The consumer watchdog made its complaint in April after a lengthy campaign that highlighted a range of what it describes as misleading and confusing pricing tactics in supermarkets – like dodgy multi-buys, shrinking products and sales offers that exaggerate discounts. The CMA had 90 days to decide how to act and whilst the regulator does have the power to fine businesses, it is more likely that it will recommend voluntary changes by the industry to make pricing fairer and more transparent. 

Which?’s super-complaint has garnered support from more than 100,000 disgruntled shoppers calling on supermarkets to put an end to misleading pricing. About 40% of groceries (by revenue) are regularly sold on promotion with Which? finding that 69% of shoppers feel it is difficult to work out whether special offers are actually a good deal. 

Which? identified a number of practices which caused the most concern: confusing and misleading special offers; a lack of easily comparable prices because of the way unit pricing is being done; and shrinking pack sizes without any corresponding price reduction. 

In addition, the watchdog said that supermarket price match schemes for a basket of goods also make price comparisons more difficult, as the range and types of products on offer can make accurate price matching impossible to achieve. 

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: “Supermarkets have been using smoke and mirrors for years to manipulate consumers’ spending and create the illusion of savings that don’t exist. When the regulator reports back, we expect it to listen to the tens of thousands of people who have backed our super-complaint and put an end to misleading pricing practices.”


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