UK competition regulator warns supermarkets over ‘fake’ price promotions

By Nathan Gray contact

- Last updated on GMT

UK competition regulator warns supermarkets over ‘fake’ price promotions

Related tags: Competition, Consumer protection

UK food retailers could face stiff fines and court action after the nation's competition regulator found evidence that supermarkets were misleading customers with confusing pricing promotions.

A three-month study by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), after a complaint by consumer association Which?, found evidence of potentially confusing and misleading pricing and promotional practices among supermarkets that "could be in breach of consumer law".

Which? Said it had found hundreds of examples of "misleading and confusing pricing tactics"​ – something that the CMA is now ‘cleaned up’ so that customers are able to understand what they are being offered, and whether a multi-buy offer will actually save them money. 

"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,"​ said Nisha Arora from the CMA.

Richard Lloyd, executive director at Which? warned that there are hundreds of ‘misleading offers’ that do not comply with the rules on retail shelves every day.

“This puts supermarkets on notice to clean up their pricing practices or face legal action,”​ he said.

In response to the report, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said it accepted that guidance on promotions needs updating, and the rules on unit pricing may need revision.

“Throughout the investigation, the BRC has maintained consistently that promotion issues are best dealt with through the ongoing review of the Pricing Practices Guide which has been in progress for over a year. We are pleased that the CMA's report today agrees with this approach,”​ said the BRC.

“Our members will continue to work closely on the Pricing Practices Guide to ensure transparency and fair treatment for our customers,”​ added Tom Ironside, Director of Business and Regulation at the BRC.

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