Is a price promise worth the paper it's written on?
Shops proudly promote ‘price match’ promises but how do these stack up? And how easy is it to get your money back if you’ve paid too much?
Spot a store offering a ‘price promise’ and it means you can shop there, safe in the knowledge that if you find the item cheaper elsewhere, you can claim back the difference.
The John Lewis price promise is probably the best known, claiming it’s ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’ and employing an entire team to check prices against its high street competitors. There are also plenty of other stores flagging up their own ‘price promise’, including Argos, Currys, Dreams, Halfords, Tesco and Wickes, along with some garden centres.
In most cases it’s a promise to stump up the difference if you see something you’ve just bought, or are about to buy, cheaper elsewhere.
So you’ll get back the difference between what you’ve paid and the cheaper price, although some stores, such as Dreams, pay the difference plus an extra £10.
And with all stores, any money due is usually made by the original payment method, so either cash or card.
However, any terms and conditions will usually mean this is subject to a time limit and may only apply within certain areas.
So read these promises carefully, as agreeing to pay out if you find the item cheaper elsewhere within a certain time limit isn’t the same as ‘promising’ the cheapest price from the start.
Here are the do’s and don’ts to watch out for:
Can you price-match with any retailer?
Retailers may limit which competitors they price match against. Currys, for example, only price matches across Argos, Asda, John Lewis, Tesco and AO.com, matching store and online prices.
John Lewis, meanwhile, will price match high street stores and those with an online outlet, but it won’t price match ‘online only’ outlets, such as Amazon or AO.com. When it comes to local independent retailers, John Lewis will only price match within an eight-mile radius. So if you buy a dishwasher in Liverpool, you can’t expect it to price match a local retailer in Margate.
Even garden centres are getting in on the act. Wyevale Garden Centres claims to “match the price of the same garden product if you find it cheaper”. However, this only applies to other specialist garden centres and excludes any promotional deals.
With Wickes, items must be in stock at another retailer within a 10-mile radius.
Which products are included in the price match?
Check if what you’re buying is included in any price match. For example, Argos’s price promise only applies to toys.
If you want a price match at Halfords, the item must be in stock at its competitor at the time of the match and it won’t match against clearance, closing down sales or specialist retailers, including market stalls.
John Lewis says its price match policy is a commitment not just to price but to quality and service, and it takes delivery and fitting into account when matching the ticket price of a high street competitor.
Wyevale Garden Centres will price match against furniture, tools and lighting, but it excludes plants.
Check the time limits
Most stores offer ‘on the spot’ price matching as part of their price promise and, with technology on our side, this can prove an instant winner for consumers, according to retail expert Catherine Shuttleworth from Savvy Marketing (Getsavvy.com). “In the old days, customers had to make more effort to check prices, but now, in the time it takes you to queue up for a tin of paint in a DIY store, you can price match on your phone to check if it’s cheaper elsewhere”.
But you should check how far back price promises last. Argos and the Fragrance Shop, for example, only price match on the day of purchase, while Currys, Halfords and Wickes give you seven days after purchase.
John Lewis will “match the ticket price when you buy or refund the difference for up to 28 days after you’ve purchased from us” – as will Dreams for claims on beds and bedroom furniture.
You may be expected to put in some legwork by producing ‘proof’ of any price difference. Currys says to make a claim, you’ll need the product number, price and competitor’s details, and Currys will then price check on the spot.
Wickes say it “will ask to see proof of the other price”, which could be a “screenshot of a webpage” or a “photo of a price tag in store”.
Wyevale, meanwhile, asks for evidence of any price difference, which also means a photo of the product and price being sold by a competitor.
Check how you should make your claim. If a price promise policy means a repeat visit to the same store to claim back the difference, is it really worth it if you’ve got to cough up for car parking or spend an hour in traffic to get there after work?
Supermarket price wars
Supermarkets are old hands when it comes to price wars, with most having tried their own version of the price match game.
Ms Shuttleworth says the key to success is keeping it simple. “When supermarkets launched price promises, some such as Asda proved overly complicated, and when Morrisons tried price matching against discounters Aldi and Lidl that didn’t last.”
However, with Tesco’s ‘Brand Guarantee’, there’s no need to double-check prices as refunds are given automatically. It promises to take off the difference if prices are cheaper at Asda, Morrisons or Sainsbury’s. But this is on branded goods only and you need to buy 10 or more products to qualify. Any money due back is taken off at the till or deducted from your online bill and listed on your receipt.