Supermarkets under fire over ‘dodgy’ discounts

Consumer group Which? is calling for government action over ‘dodgy discounts’ and ‘misleading multibuys’ despite supermarkets insisting that mistakes are down to human error.

An investigation by Which? claims that a number of deals across all four major supermarkets, as well as online retailer Ocado, that either didn’t offer customers a saving or ended up costing them more. Included is an Asda offer for Innocent’s pure fruit smoothie which the supermarket is said to have raised the regular price from £2 to £2.78 as it went on a two for £5 offer.

Supermarkets are also offering discounts on products that were sold at the higher price for a matter of days before going on offer for weeks. Included is a Sainsbury’s deal for Carex handwash that was available at a higher price of £1.80 for seven days before it was put on offer at 90p for 84 days.

Ocado, Morrisons and Tesco were also accused of using similar practices on discount products. Which? says these break Office for Fair Trading rules that supermarkets agreed to a year ago and is calling on the government to update its guidance on special offers and enforce the rules.

“The problem with these kinds of offers is that the offer price can effectively becomes the ‘normal’ price rather than a special one,” says Which?

“With consumers hit hard by rising food prices, it’s unacceptable that we’re still finding problems with special offers. The supermarkets’ pricing systems are so confusing that it’s hard for consumers to tell if they’re getting a good deal.”

However, retailers insist that errors in discounting and multibuys are not deliberate attempts to mislead consumers but honest mistakes. The British Retail Consortium says that with the huge number of discounts available it is not surprising that errors occur.

It points to figures that 35 per cent of all food was bought on promotion in October and that last month marked the sixth consecutive month of reductions in retail prices as signs that consumers are getting “good value”.

“Retailers are committed to giving customers a good deal and in a very competitive market they work hard to offer the keenest promotions and the best value.

“Across the tens of thousands of promotions available every day, regrettably, occasional errors do slip through. Retailers work very quickly to rectify these mistakes whenever they are found,” says the BRC.

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