Supermarkets could face prosecution over misleading prices
Four of the UK's biggest supermarkets could be prosecuted for misleading pricing practices.
Following an investigation into the supermarket price wars by the BBC's Panorama programme, consumer law expert Deborah Parry has warned that the price tactics used by Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons could potentially be illegal.
The Panorama investigation found that all four supermarkets were making misleading claims such as 'bigger pack, better value' offers that were in fact worse value.
"It is not just the occasional mishap here. There are repeated examples with many, many products in different locations with different supermarkets and all of them seem to be doing the same thing. So there is a potential for prosecutions to be brought against all of them," says Parry.
Last December, the Office of Fair Trading issued a warning to supermarkets to stop using misleading pricing practices, or face 'enforcement action'.
All four of the big supermarkets have denied any wrongdoing, saying they are simply working hard to keep prices down. They point to research from the Office for National Statistics that puts last month's fall in inflation partly down to the supermarkets' promotional campaigns as evidence they are reducing costs for customers.
An increase in the general level of prices that persists over a period of time. The inflation rate is a measure of the average change over a period, usually 12 months. If inflation is up 4%, this means the price of products and services is 4% higher than a year earlier, requiring we spend and extra 4% to buy the same things we bought 12 months ago and that any savings and investments must generate 4% (after any taxes) to keep pace with inflation. Since 2003, the Bank of England has used the consumer prices index (CPI) as its official measure of inflation (see also retail prices index).