Supermarkets agree to end discount 'cons' that tempt shoppers with bogus claims of savings
07:41 GMT, 30 November 2012
Supermarkets have agreed to end bargain price cons that tempt shoppers with bogus claims of savings.
Under a deal thrashed out with the Office of Fair Trading, stores must not artificially inflate prices to make discounts look more attractive.
They will not be allowed to promote half price and discount deals for weeks on end if the product was available at the original higher price for only a short period.
Ending discount 'cons': Eight chains have signed up to the new voluntary regime Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrisons, Co-op, M&S, Waitrose, Aldi and Lidl
The new rules also insist that claims such as 'Bigger Pack, Better Value', must be true.
Shoppers have identified a number of examples where people buying in bulk end up paying more than if they bought the same product in smaller packs.
Eight chains have signed up to the new voluntary regime – Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrisons, Co-op, M&S, Waitrose, Aldi and Lidl.
However Britain's second biggest supermarket, Asda, which is owned by US giant Wal-Mart, has refused to do so.
The OFT said Asda was involved in the consultation process with all the supermarkets but had decided not to sign up to the new principles governing promotions.
The decision will create suspicion among the firm's customers that it wants the flexibility to run promotions that are potentially misleading.
Stores litter their aisles with 'offers' banners to try to generate a bargain thrill for customers.
However, there has been a stream of reports from consumer group Which that promises of bargains and savings are not what they seem.
The OFT says it has found no concrete evidence that stores are guilty of illegal tactics, but it says the new deal will ensure they also adhere to the spirit of the law.
Chief executive Clive Maxwell said: 'Household budgets across the country are under pressure and shoppers should be able to trust that special offers and promotions really are bargains.
'Prices and promotions need to be fair and meaningful so shoppers can make the right decisions. Nowhere is this more important than during regular shopping for groceries, which accounts for 44 per cent of household spending.'
In future, any store which breaks the new rules risks prosecution under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.
Asda said it was not convinced the OFT scheme would help customers, but suggested it might still sign up.
A spokesman said: 'We are totally committed to giving our customers clear and accurate pricing information that fully complies with the law.'