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Consumer group Which? hits out at supermarkets

By Roger Baird

Britain's supermarkets are facing calls for a competition inquiry after Which? accused firms of ripping off shoppers with misleading and confusing prices.

In its super-complaint to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the consumer group said retailers were creating the illusion of savings through the use of multi-buys, shrinking products and baffling sales offers.

Which? said 40% of groceries are sold on promotion so consumers could be collectively losing out to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds if only a small proportion of offers are misleading. It added that it was virtually impossible for people to know if they are getting a fair deal, particularly when prices vary frequently or when consumers are in a rush and may be buying numerous items of relatively low value.

The group is one of a handful of bodies with the power to make a super-complaint on behalf of consumers about poorly functioning markets to the CMA, which must now respond within 90 days.

Promotions have become more widely used as major supermarkets cut prices to fight losses in market share to discounters such as Aldi and Lidl.

The consumer body said over the last seven years it has catalogued a range of misleading pricing practices.

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