Tit-for-tat in-fighting among retailers, and increasingly militant consumers, sent complaints about retail ads to the Advertising Standards Authority soaring last year.

The watchdog's annual report showed that complaints against retail ads soared from 1,731 in 2009 to 2,349 last year a rise of 36%. Of cases pursued, only 46 were upheld, compared with 41 in 2009.

ASA said the general nature of complaints were on the grounds of 'misleadingness.' "It is fair to say the retail sector is highly competitive and that during the economic downturn competitors engage in a significant amount of comparative advertising, which can result in tit-for tat complaints as well as complaints from consumers," said a spokesman.

While complaints against retailers were rising those about suppliers actually fell last year. There were 2,512 complaints about 816 food and drinks ads in 2010, compared with 2,729 against 881 on the previous year an 8% fall. Complaints about alcohol ads also fell, from 201 to 148 last year.