Baffling supermarket prices and poor labelling and could be hiking up your shopping bill
By Sean Poulter
PUBLISHED:18:50 EST, 5 September 2012| UPDATED:19:27 EST, 5 September 2012
Supermarkets are confusing shoppers and pocketing extra profits at their expense by labelling the price of products poorly, it is claimed today.
Stores routinely sell fresh fruit and vegetables in standard packs for a fixed price without providing a clear price comparison with the same items sold loose.
This makes it difficult to make a quick assessment of value for money.
Consumer champions Which? are calling for a change in the law that would require retailers to provide clear unit prices, including shelf labels in large print against a clear background, showing a price based on a standard formula such as pence per item.
Yesterday, supermarket giant Morrisons broke ranks with its rivals to announce it is backing the campaign with a shift to clearer price labels.
The greatest confusion occurs around fruit and vegetables sold loose or in packs, but Which? said it extends to many products sold in cans, jars and bottles.
Most savvy shoppers will be aware that loose fruit and vegetables are usually cheaper, but this is not always the case.
A Sainsbury’s pack of four baking potatoes comes in at 75p, while the store also sells them loose at £1.20 per kilo.
Though it would be difficult to make the comparison at a glance, calculations on the store’s website suggest the potatoes in the pack are actually far cheaper per unit, at 19p each versus 36p for those sold loose.
Significant differences were also flagged up on items at Tesco and Asda.
A Which? survey found three in four people feel that supermarkets are trying to mislead them on prices.
The group has launched the Price it Right campaign to put an end to hard to read and inconsistent unit prices.
In theory, stores are currently required to include unit prices on shelf labels.
However Which? conducted spot checks at the top ten supermarkets and found none met the best practice criteria for size and legibility of unit pricing, with labels often too small to read.
Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: ‘With household budgets squeezed and rising food costs among the top worries for consumers, it’s all the more important that stores make it as easy as possible for people to spot the best value products.’
Morrisons announced it will introduce standard large labels showing the unit price and price per kilo or per litre across all its products by the end of next year.
Chief executive Dalton Philips said: ‘By doing this we believe we can restore trust in supermarket prices.’
The British Retail Consortium, which speaks for supermarkets, insisted its members do offer clear prices