Consumers warned to take supermarket price match schemes with ‘a pinch of salt’

Supermarket price matching schemes, which have become popular amongst all the major grocers in recent months and have come under the spotlight of the advertising regulator, should be taken with “a pinch of salt” according to consumer group Which?.

Brand Match schemes
Which? investigation questions the veracity of supermarket’s price match savings claims.

An investigation into price match initiatives run by Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda found in the majority of cases each supermarket claimed to be cheaper than its rivals – yet they each calculate the cost of a basket differently, limiting how meaningful the comparisons are.

Which? analysed the till receipts of 59 mystery shopping trips to the three supermarkets – checking the price of each basket with each supermarket’s own online price match.

The average discount across each supermarket was £1.45. Asda’s “Price Guarantee” was found to be the cheapest supermarket on the most occasions (17 out of 19 visits) followed by Sainsbury’s “Brand Match” (12 out of 20 visits) and then Tesco’s Price Promise (10 out of 20 visits).

All three supermarkets used different methods to measure which shop was the “cheapest”. Sainsbury’s only includes branded products and while Tesco and Asda also include own-brand, Which? found they have “differing opinions” about what constitutes a comparable item. Different pack sizes can also mean products are dropped from price matching schemes.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd says: “Supermarket price matching schemes can save you money but we believe they should be taken with a pinch of salt because they are difficult to compare. At a time when consumers are facing a squeeze on their household incomes, we want all the supermarkets to do whatever they can to help consumers find the best deal.”

A separate poll conducted by Populus on behalf of Which? of more than 2,000 UK consumers found less than a third (30 per cent) of consumers trust supermarkets to charge a fair price for food.

This is despite seven in 10 consumers (71 per cent) saying price is one of the most important factors when shopping for food, meaning supermarket price matching schemes can be an attractive incentive.

This week Sainsbury’s Brand Match scheme was dealt a blow after the Advertising Standards Authority banned a TV ad for the initiative, ruling it was “misleading”. 

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