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CMA will support shoppers in supermarkets

In response to a ‘super-complaint’ submitted by consumer group Which? the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched an investigation into supermarket pricing and the confusion it can cause.

The complaint, which was submitted by Which? on 21st April 2015, raised concerns about the confusing and misleading promotions on offer in supermarkets, as well as the lack of easily understood comparable pricing.

As part of its research the CMA established that there were instances of “pricing and promotional practises that have the potential to confuse or mislead consumers”; however they summarised that these problems were not happening across the sector on the whole and that many retailers are taking compliance very seriously.

CMA found that there were several issues around the complexity of unit pricing and they advised that more should be done to ease this, which would allow consumers to use it as a useful comparison tool.

The CMA has promised that it will continue to work with businesses to provide them with support with promotional practices, which could potentially mislead consumers. Some of these practises include promotions such as ‘was/now’ where the discount price is advertised as a promotion for longer than the higher price applied.

To aid the compliance process, undertaken by many of the supermarkets investigated, the CMA has also recommended that the Chartered Trading Standards Institute clarifies how the legislation applies to certain promotional practices. This is all part of the CMA’s ongoing review of the ‘Pricing Practices Guide’.

In addition to this the CMA has also recommended that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) publishes a best practice guide, which outlines the legibility of unit prices, and to look at ways to simply and clarify pricing legislation.

CMA Senior Consumer Director, Nisha Arora, 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 3 months and are now announcing what further action we are taking and recommending others to take.

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

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