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Supermarket promotions have 'potential to mislead' - CMA response to Which? complaint

Published:  16 July, 2015

The Competition & Markets Authority has found evidence that supermarket pricing and promotional practices "have the potential to confuse or mislead consumers".

In a response to a super-complaint from Which? - which raised concerns about confusing and misleading promotions and a lack of easily comparable prices because of the limitations of unit pricing - the CMA said that evidence of breaches of consumer law "could lead to enforcement action".

But it said such cases are "not occurring in large numbers" and that retailers are generally "taking compliance seriously to avoid such problems occurring".

The CMA said that more could be done to reduce the complexity in unit pricing to make it a more useful comparison tool for consumers.

It said it would work with retailers to cut out promotional practices which could mislead consumers, including "was/now" promotions, where the discount price is advertised as an offer for longer than the previous higher price.

Half-price promotions have come into criticism from some corners of the wine trade for allegedly failing to offer wine of a quality that would warrant the higher price.

The CMA recommended that the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills should publish best practice guidelines on the legibility of unit prices and ways to simplify and clarify legislation.

Nisha Arora, CMA senior director, consumer, said: "We welcomed the super-complaint, which presented us with information that demanded closer inspection.

"We have gathered and examined a great deal of further evidence over the past three months and are now announcing what further action we are taking and recommending others to take.

"We have found that, while 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.

"So we are recommending further action to improve compliance and ensure that shoppers have clear, accurate information."