Press release

Government to make price comparisons easier for supermarket shoppers

The government is to look into ways supermarket price comparisons can be made simpler for shoppers.

The government is to look into ways supermarket price comparisons can be made simpler for shoppers, Consumer Minister Nick Boles announced today (15 October 2015).

The plans are set out in the government’s response to the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) investigation into a super-complaint made by Which? alleging misleading pricing practices in the groceries market.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) will launch a consultation later in the autumn looking at options to improve unit pricing, including measures to simplify existing unit pricing legislation.

The CMA report did not find systemic problems in the way that supermarkets display prices and found that generally retailers are taking compliance seriously to avoid such problems occurring.

However the CMA plans to take action where it has identified examples of potentially misleading and confusing practices.

Consumer Minister Nick Boles said:

Shoppers need to be able to get the best deal and make comparisons easily so we will look at how we can make information on price as clear and as simple as possible.

The government takes the Competition and Market Authority’s findings and recommendations seriously and it is important that the supermarkets do too.

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) has also today launched its consultation on the Pricing Practices Guide clarifying how the legislation applies to certain promotional practices – a key recommendation made by the CMA.

Notes for editors

  1. A full copy of the response is available at pricing practices in the groceries market: government response to the CMA’s report.
  2. The Chartered Trading Standards Institute’s consultation is available at Pricing Practices Guide – Review by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute.
  3. The CMA is the UK’s primary competition and consumer authority. It is independent of government with responsibility for carrying out investigations into mergers, markets and the regulated industries and enforcing competition and consumer law. From 1 April 2014 it took over the functions of the Competition Commission and the competition and certain consumer functions of the Office of Fair Trading, as amended by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013.
  4. Which? submitted the super-complaint on 21 April 2015, raising concerns about confusing and misleading promotions and a lack of easily comparable prices because of the limitations of unit pricing. The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs) came into force on 26 May 2008 and implemented the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (UCPD) 2005/29/EC into UK law. The CPRs contain a general prohibition against unfair commercial practices, and specific prohibitions against misleading actions, misleading omissions and aggressive commercial practices. The CPRs are enforceable through the civil and criminal courts.
  5. The Price Marking Order 2004 (PMO) implements Directive 98/6/EC and came into force on 22 July 2004. The PMO – responsibility for which falls to BIS - covers sales of products between traders and consumers and requires the trader to display, in a way which is unambiguous, easily identifiable and clearly legible: the selling price in sterling (inclusive of VAT and all other taxes) and, where appropriate, the unit price.
  6. The ‘Pricing Practices Guide’ (PPG) was published by BIS in November 2010. It recommends to traders a set of good practices in giving consumers information about prices in various situations.