Shoppers still duped with supermarket dodgy deals, watchdog claims

Shoppers are being misled with “dodgy discounts” and special offers in some supermarkets, an investigation has found.

Consumer group Which? analysed 459 “offers” to find multi-buy deals that would have cost shoppers more than buying the items separately a week before.

They also looked at “dubious” discounts, and special prices that were in place for most of the year.

Which? said that in the year they tracked deals, 65 were misleading. Six supermarkets were guilty of at least one offence, with only Sainsbury’s meeting the new criteria for offers.

At Iceland, researchers found Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut cereal on offer at two packs for £4, a week after they were on sale for £1.49 each.

At Asda, Wall’s one litre tubs of Carte D’Or strawberry ice cream were labelled as “was £3.50, now £2”, but had actually been selling the dessert at the lower price for more of the year than the higher price.

Morrisons promoted Cathedral City cheddar as “was £3.50, now £2”, for the week of 17 September last year, but had been selling the 350g block for £2 the week before.

Which? say supermarkets are disregarding government pricing guidelines, which should ensure retailers always present information which is fair and does not waste time, cause annoyance or regret.

The guidelines changed in 2015 after Which? filed a super complaint with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

Supermarkets and retailers must also not cause a consumer to overspend or buy a product that is inappropriate for them.

Which? says the latest research shows supermarkets continue to flout the rules and urged shoppers to be vigilant.

The findings will be reported to the CMA.

Natalie Hitchins, Which? head of home products and services, said: “Four years on from our super complaint on misleading pricing practices, many of the big supermarkets are clearly still in the wrong, with numerous examples of dodgy discounts and never-ending offers.

“These retailers must stop tricking shoppers with deceptive deals and spurious special offers. If not, the CMA must intervene to ensure that pricing guidelines are followed.”

An Iceland spokeswoman said: “We update our promotions throughout the year to offer the best possible value to our customers, and review our approach to pricing structures to ensure savings to the customer are as transparent as possible.

“We have incorporated the findings shared by Which? into this process and will continue to review and improve our promotional calendar.”

Tom Ironside, director of business and regulation at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Supermarkets seek to provide the best value for consumers on the hundreds of thousands of product lines they sell. This is often through promotions and discounts, which can change week to week, even on the same product lines, as retailers seek to cut the cost for shoppers.”