Asda, Morrisons, Tesco and Sainsbury’s shoppers missing best deals over ‘confusing pricing’
Which? found there was unclear price information leading to confusion over the best buys.
Multiple major supermarket chains have been accused of not having clear enough pricing leading to customers missing out on some of their better deals.
Which? investigated prices across a variety of items at the likes of Asda, Morrisons, Tesco and Sainsbury’s, where it found that seven in 10 people were struggling to find the best value buys (72%) in-stores. In one case, the same product at the same supermarket was found to cost up to three and half times (364%) more expensive depending on the packaging.
The consumer champion website has said this highlights why clear and consistent packaging is needed in-stores, as households continue to battle rising prices during the cost of living crisis.
Tracking the prices of 10 popular grocery items over three months, including Coca-Cola, own-label semi-skimmed milk, Dairy Milk chocolate, Nescafe instant coffee and Weetabix, Which? found there was unclear price information leading to confusion over the best buys.
Tesco was found to offer up to 17 different-sized versions of Coca-Cola with prices varying between 11p and 50p per 100ml. That is a 346% increase for a shopper who would pay £5 for four 250ml glass bottles, compared to one who picks up one 1L bottle for £1.68.
The website also found that a bottle of own-branded semi-skimmed milk at Morrisons varied between 6p and 13p per 100ml. That’s a 133 per cent more for a shopper choosing a 500ml bottle at 65p, compared to a shopper who picks up 2.27L bottle for £1.27.
Which? also sent out researchers to nine major supermarket chains, including Aldi, Asda, Iceland, Lidl, M&S, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose, where they found a few problems with their unit pricing, reports Wales Online. The consumer champion found fruit and vegetables such as pears and tomatoes which, depending on the pack size or variety, were given a price each, per pack, or per 1 Kg – making it difficult to compare prices.
There was also confusing terminology; such as for peppers at Lidl, which were priced both per ‘piece’ and ‘each’. Meanwhile at M&S, ‘each’ was used to mean both a pack of four pears and also a single pear.
There were also many times when the price per unit was clearly displayed but did not apply to a special offer, promotion or other reduction on price. There were numerous examples of pricing that was hard to read or missing entirely – such as for a pack of tomatoes in Tesco, Penguin bars in Waitrose, some soft fruit in Morrisons and vine tomatoes in M&S.
The findings show that there also remains poor quality control in some supermarkets at the way pricing is displayed. Which? Also found that there are also big differences with how supermarkets present and use unit pricing online, particularly for promotions.
When Which? looked at nine major supermarket websites (Aldi, Amazon Fresh, Asda, Iceland, Morrisons, Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose) it found all displayed unit pricing for standard-priced items and for discounted items. But researchers were unable to find unit pricing for multibuys at any of the supermarkets, although not all the discounters sell them.
When Which? looked at Tesco, the supermarket with the biggest market share, it found most Tesco discounts are now offered through Clubcard Prices, which don’t show unit pricing. That means most discounts in Tesco are difficult to compare with other similar products.
Displaying prices of goods and therefore unit prices is governed by the Price Marking Order 2004 but the legislation specifies a range of different units that can be used depending on the product type so there can be confusion for shoppers.
Which? has campaigned on the issue of unclear pricing before, culminating in a super-complaint to the Competition and Markets Authority in 2015. That led to a series of recommendations to improve unit pricing in supermarkets – but the legislation itself was not changed.
Which? believes clear, fair and transparent pricing is now key to helping shoppers through the current cost of living crisis and is calling on supermarkets to urgently do more by making unit pricing more prominent, legible and consistent – as well as b
Sue Davies, Which? Head of Food Policy, said: “At a time when food prices are a huge concern, unit pricing can be a useful tool for shoppers to compare and choose the cheapest groceries but unclear supermarket pricing means the vast majority of people are left struggling to find the best deal.
“Small savings can add up and make a big difference but unless supermarkets make unit pricing much more prominent, legible and consistent – as well as displaying it on their promotional offers – people will continue to risk missing out on getting the best value.”
Which? approached Aldi, Amazon Fresh, Asda, Iceland, Lidl, M&S, Morrisons, Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose with the findings. Only Lidl and Waitrose provided Which? with an official response.
A Lidl spokesperson said: “We always endeavour to ensure that pricing information is as clear as possible for our customers so that they can make informed purchasing decisions.”
Waitrose: A Waitrose spokesperson said: “We regularly review all our products to ensure our unit pricing is clear and consistent, so that customers can compare prices and save money. Our Partners are always on hand to assist customers with any pricing queries.”
A Morrisons spokesperson told the Mirror: ”We show unit pricing on our milk point of sale.”
A spokesperson from Tesco told The Mirror that the supermarkets sells sell a wide range of products at different price points.
Which? also approached Amazon Fresh, Asda, Iceland, M&S, Ocado and Sainsbury’s.
Which? advice on how to work out best value
1) Calculate the overall volume of the product (if it’s a multipack, you may need to multiply the number of items by the volume of each to get the overall total)
2) Then take the price and divide by the volume