Four largest supermarkets could face prosecution for 'misleading shoppers with grocery price war lies'
Investigation found that buying products in bulk can be MORE expensive. Some 'savings' only came because the price was temporarily higher
By Sean Poulter
Supermarkets have been accused of misleading shoppers with confusing and untrue claims that could leave them open to prosecution.
Research into the ‘big four’ – Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons – pours scorn on their claims to be in the middle of a price war.
For at the same time as retailers have claimed to be slashing prices, their profits have ballooned and their stranglehold on grocery shopping has tightened.
Studies by the consumer group Which? and by the BBC for a Panorama programme, presented by Sophie Raworth, have revealed some of the tricks used by the supermarkets to pull the wool over customers’ eyes
Presenter Sophie Raworth heads in to a Tesco store during the Panorama programme and examines a 1.5kg tub of 'Big Value' Vanish stain remover costing £12.
She compares it with 3 x 500g pots in the supermarket which cost just £3 each - ie £9 for the same amount.
Sophie makes her way through Asda. Studies by the consumer group Which? and by the BBC have revealed some of the tricks used by the supermarkets to pull the wool over customers' eyes.
One snapshot survey found that 17 items sold on the basis they were ‘bigger packs and better value’ were actually more expensive than buying the same items in smaller quantities.
In one startling example, Tesco was selling a 1.5kg ‘Big Value’ pack of Vanish Oxi Action Stain Remover for £12. This was a third more than buying the same product in three 500g packs.
There were also many examples of products being pushed as a special promotion with posters and labels that actually offered no saving.
Last December, the Office of Fair Trading warned retailers to stop using misleading pricing practices, or face ‘enforcement action’.
However, the evidence of the BBC Panorama programme suggests the stores are still failing customers.
Consumer law expert Deborah Parry said: ‘It is not just the occasional mishap.
'There are repeated examples with many, many products in different locations with different supermarkets and all of them seem to be doing the same thing. So there is a potential for prosecutions to be brought against all of them.’
In September, Tesco announced the ‘Big Price Drop’, promising savings worth £500million a year. It said this represented a change in strategy which would deliver permanently low prices to struggling families.
Asda retaliated with its own Rollback deal, claiming prices had been slashed across 3,000 essentials.
It later emerged that many of the products involved in the promotions had seen prices rise in the weeks before they were cut.
Richard Lloyd, executive director at Which?, said: ‘Supermarkets must do more to help people in tough times by offering real deals, not fake price cuts, and by making it easier to compare prices.’
Retail analyst Richard Perks dismissed retailers’ price war claims as a marketing mirage.
‘If there was a price war going on at the moment we would have seen profits falling, or we would have severe warnings, and that is just not happening,’he said.
All four of the big supermarkets deny misleading or deceiving customers. They say they work hard to keep prices down and point to recent research from the Office for National Statistics, which attributed last month’s fall in inflation in part to supermarket promotional campaigns.
The squeeze on family finances is predicted to trigger a big increase in sales for budget chains such as Aldi and Lidl. Sales through the chains will grow by an average of 10.1 per cent a year, rising to £11.4billion by 2016, according to the Institute for Grocery Distribution.
Supermarkets are slashing the price of big-brand Christmas alcohol to lure shoppers. For example, the cost of a 70cl bottle of Baileys was cut from £15 to £7 last week for a short-term promotion by Asda.
Sent by Parthasarathy CA