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Shopper who took on Tesco over fruit pricing and won

By Chris Stevenson

It was a case of David versus Goliath nearly two years in the making, but Daphne Smallman has struck a mighty blow for consumers after Tesco was fined £300,000 after admitting it misled customers over a half-price offer on punnets of strawberries.

The action was brought by Birmingham City Council's trading standards department after the issue was brought to their attention by Ms Smallman, who was shopping in the city's Sheldon branch.

The action was then extended nationally, as the offer was available in Tesco stores across the UK, including Northern Ireland.

Birmingham Crown Court heard that at various points in the summer of 2011, Tesco sold 400g punnets of strawberries for £1.99, with prices of £2.99 and £3.99 crossed out.

The offer lasted 14 weeks, but as the higher price of £3.99 had been available for a shorter length of time, the offer breached guidelines in the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations Act 2008. Judge Michael Chambers called the offer "patently wrong". The supermarket was also told it had to pay £65,000 in costs.

However, Ms Smallman, described as "tenacious" in court, did not see the end of her fight, as she died earlier this year.

Sajeela Naseer, the head of trading standards for Birmingham City Council, said: "This is not only a victory for Birmingham customers, it also has wider benefits for all consumers across the country. It was the council's case, confirmed by Tesco's guilty pleas, that this was a misleading offer."

In a statement, the retailer said: "We apologise sincerely for this mistake, which was made in the summer of 2011.

"To make sure this doesn't happen again we've given colleagues additional training and reminded them of their responsibilities to ensure we always adhere to the guidelines on pricing."

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"Tesco's hefty fine sends a clear signal to supermarkets to play fair and make sure that their special offers really are special."

Richard Lloyd, head of consumer watchdog Which?

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