Which? calls on supermarkets to “Price it Right”

New research carried out by Which? has revealed that nearly three quarters of consumers (74%) feel that supermarkets are trying to mislead them by using confusing pricing practices.

Which? asked 2,100 shoppers about their shopping habits ahead of the launch of its  “Price it Right” campaign to improve supermarket pricing.  The majority of shoppers (78%) say their weekly household grocery bill has increased in the past 12 months, spending an average £76.83 per week. 91% are shopping around for the best deal and 82% are buying more groceries from cheaper supermarkets.

Which? wants to see an end to supermarkets confusing consumers with hard to read and inconsistent unit prices that make it hard for shoppers to identify which products and promotions are the best value for money.

Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which?, 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. All food and drink should be clearly and consistently priced by weight or volume across all stores, including products which are on special offer. While there are some changes which supermarkets can make voluntarily, it’s now time for the Government to change the law so that supermarkets ‘Price it Right’ across the board.”

Under current legislation, retailers are required to provide both a selling price and a unit price for food. The unit price is the price by weight or volume that allows shoppers to compare the true cost of products, even if they come in different sizes. For instance, if a 600g jar of mayonnaise costs £3.49 and a 400g jar is £2.50, a clear unit price would show you straight away which jar gives you the most mayo for your money.

Of the people Which? questioned who use unit pricing, 88% said it helps them to work out which products and promotions are the best value for money.  Of those shoppers who are aware of unit pricing but do not use it, over a fifth (22%) said it was because unit pricing is too small and hard to read.

As part of the research, Which? conducted spot checks in a branch of each of the top ten leading supermarkets and none of them met the Which? best practice criteria for size and legibility of unit pricing on all of the products we looked at.

Which? is calling for consumers to support the campaign by signing a pledge calling for supermarkets to use clear, simple price labelling at which.co.uk/unitpricing. People can also tweet pictures of confusing unit pricing to @whichaction using the #priceitright.

We hope that the Government will listen to those who have signed the Price it Right pledge, and amend current legislation that allows for inconsistencies in unit pricing.

Notes for editors

1. Research Notes

Consumer research: A survey of 2,100 GB adults was conducted on behalf of Which? between 24th – 27th August 2012. Surveys were conducted online and the results have been weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults.

Market research: In August, Which? researchers visited one branch of the ten leading GB supermarkets (Aldi, Asda, The Co-operative,Iceland, Lidl, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose) to see how they displayed the unit price.

The researchers went to larger stores and looked at the price labels for ten products from four food categories in each supermarket: Fruit and veg, frozen food, chilled food, general aisle groceries.

The researchers measured the size of the unit price, the selling price and the overall label and looked at the colour font used and the background colour of the label to see how easy it was to read.

The results were then compared against the key criteria that we developed with trading standards officers and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) for clear unit pricing:

  • An ideal font size of 5mm
  • A minimum size of 3mm
  • The unit price should not be less than 50% the height of the selling price
  • Sufficient contrast between the print and background eg. in black on a white or yellow background

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