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Multi-buy retail offers 'misleading'

By Martin Hickman

Shoppers who think they save money by buying in bulk may actually be paying more, according to an investigation exposing a variety of “misleading” supermarket offers.

Many items in shop multi-buy promotions, such as “two packs of Innocent smoothies for £5”, were actually cheaper if bought singly, an analysis of thousands of prices by a consumer group found.

In an exhaustive check of supermarket offers, Which? found several deals that looked attractive at first glance actually ended up hitting consumers in the pocket.

Examples include raising the price of an item for only a few days shortly before putting it “on sale” for months, and advertising a higher “before” price than the one prior to the discount period beginning, both of which give the impression of greater savings.

The supermarkets said they had made honest mistakes and apologised to customers.

Which? tracked 700,000 prices over a year from 31 January 2011 and 1 February 2012 at the website Mysupermarket.co.uk.

The consumer group did not quantify how many offers it considered to be potentially misleading because there were “so many”, but highlighted 24.

Thirteen were at Asda, six at Tesco, two at Sainsbury’s, and the rest at chains in England.

Which? called for a tightening of government guidelines on pricing, saying there were too many loopholes for retailers to exploit.

The supermarkets said the offers highlighted were lapses.

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