Supermarket price transparency Bill gains support as John Denham highlights misleading pricing strategies

Support is growing for the Private Member’s Bill to give shoppers instant, online access to supermarket prices, product by product and store by store. The Bill, from Labour MP John Denham, will be introduced on Tuesday 15th January.  

The proposal now has support from:

  • Consumer champions Which?
  • MPs from 5 political parties (Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem, Green and Plaid Cymru)
  • Gavin Starks, CEO of the Open Data Institute and a leading figure from the open data community
  • The Consumer Action Group
  • Price comparison website MySupermarket
  • Consumer website BuyVertue

Mr Denham has today released a new dossier on Misleading deals and dubious pricing strategies, highlighting a history of misleading supermarket sales practices from supermarkets:Supermarket

  • December 2011: BBC Panorama uncovers a range of misleading special offers including multi-buy deals that offer no better value than buying individually.
  • March 2012: The Grocer reveals a study in Tesco’s Big Price Drop campaign that found for every two items that dropped in price, three went up.
  • May 2012: Which? find supermarkets intentionally misleading customers by artificially raising prices before dropping them to give the illusion of a deal.
  • November 2012: OFT find that “there was a variety of approaches to interpreting and applying relevant legislation across the food/drink retail sector”
  • January 2013: highlight five misleading ‘offers’ costing more than the average price normally charged in the supermarket.

John Denham, MP for Southampton Itchen and author of the Bill, said:John Denham speaking in Westminster Hall

“In tough times, when living standards are falling, shoppers need every help to get the best value for money.  My Bill will even up the relationship between supermarkets and the consumer.  Supermarkets collect and analyse data on shopping habits to shape their pricing and promotion policies.  Yet many consumers are still left shopping around from store to store to get the best deal in much the same way they did decades ago.

“Consumers will quickly be able to compare the price of their shop to get value for money, the release of this data will put an end to misleading pricing practices and dodgy deals.  They will also be able to see where branches of the same supermarket charge significantly different prices.”

Mr Denham also said that real price transparency would reduce the need for expensive investigations by regulators like the OFT.  “The OFT’s role is important but it would be much better if dodgy pricing was driven out of the system by consumer power.”

Gavin Starks, CEO of the Open Data Institute, said:

“We are at a point where retailers are facing a crisis in consumer confidence. Transparency helps engender trust, and while we understand the commercial value of data today, those who take a leadership position on transparency will build trust and gain more customers. The value of such leadership to brands, customers, and shareholders, should not be underestimated.”

How the Bill would work

Supermarkets would be required to release pricing data product by product and store by store.  This price information would not only enable the comparison of basic product prices, but also enable consumers to understand the differences in pricing between stores within the same retail chain, or variations in pricing of goods in different areas and regions.

It would also enable efficient scrutiny of special offers, multi-buys, ‘bogofs’ and other price promotions that have been the subject of recent criticism and regulatory action.

The dossier can be downloaded from the following link:

Misleading deals dossier

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