High Street shops accused of 'sexist rip-off' as study reveals women pay over the odds
Retailers could be called to Parliament to face questioning after research suggested high street stores are charging up to twice as much for products aimed at women than men.
The women's rights charity, The Fawcett Society, has accused stores of a "sexist rip-off".
Analysis of hundreds of products found the cost of clothes, beauty products and toys for females are routinely higher than equivalent items pitched at males.
In one case, Tesco charges double the price for 10 disposable razors which are pink.
And women's Levi's 501 jeans were found to cost an average of 46% more than men's, despite having the same waist and leg length.
The investigation by The Times newspaper follows a similar probe in the United States last year which also uncovered major discrepancies in pricing of products aimed at men and women.
The British study found that children's scooters were £5 more expensive in pink than in blue. And online retailer Amazon was selling a Playmobil pirates ship for £12.59, while the female-oriented 'fairy queen' ship cost £14.99.
Maria Miller, chairwoman of the Women and Equalities Committee, said: "Retailers need to explain how they can be charging such different prices for items which look identical. "This is just the sort of thing the committee can consider and make sure that in this instance retailers are made to account for what appears to be price discrimination based on sex."
She added: "I think many women will understand the point that is being made, particularly when it comes to clothing and toiletries.
"Sometimes the difference in price is noticeable, but I think an independent piece of research like this, an investigative piece of journalism, has really shone a spotlight on how widespread this problem appears to be."
Glyn Roberts, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association said: "It's the first time that we have come across something like this.
"As a rule of thumb, this sort of thing shouldn't be the case, regardless of who it's sold to. I can only speak for independent retailers - what the multiples do is another matter.
"It's an accepted principle that the product sold to any gender should be the same price."
The group that represents major stores here, the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, did not comment.
Across all products with different prices, those pitched at women were 37% higher on average, according to The Times.
Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said: "These findings are shocking because they show just how systematic it is across the retail industry.
"They didn't just find one or two examples. Some are targeted at adults, some at children, it includes clothing, toiletries and so on - it really is a wide range of products, and they found a 37% mark-up on average for products that were marketed as being for women or for girls. It is a big rip-off. It is a sexist rip-off and we have all just got to see through it and start demanding something different."
Tesco told The Times: "A number of products for females have additional design and performance features. We constantly review our pricing policy."