The government has published new guidance aimed at stopping misleading and confusing pricing tactics used by some retailers.
Guidance for Traders on Pricing Practices, by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), replaces the former Department for Business Innovation and Skills’ (BIS) Pricing Practices Guide.
It follows a Which? investigation into complaints from disgruntled shoppers and the subsequent super-complaint on misleading pricing practices in the grocery sector.
Which? claimed that retailers were misleading and confusing consumers into sales by creating a facade of savings that did not actually exist.
Although the Competition & Markets Authority did not find that the practices were widespread, it recommended a series of measures to give shoppers greater clarity and confidence that they are getting a fair deal.
Adrian Simpson, CTSI’s business education and consumer codes expert, said the new guidance, commissioned by BIS, was part of that process.
“Consumers lead busy lives and are subjected to an increasingly wide range of products, product options and sophisticated marketing,” he said. “But clear, honest and upfront pricing is beneficial to both consumers and businesses. Retailers must ensure the information they present to consumers is fair and does not waste time or cause annoyance, disappointment or regret. Neither should it cause a consumer to overspend or buy a product that is inappropriate for them. In light of the new guidance we are urging businesses to review their pricing practices and reassess their fairness.”
BIS said it was considering the recommendations made by the CMA, particularly on unit pricing, which it is hoped could become a useful tool to allow shoppers to compare prices more easily.
“Consumers are looking for best value but it can sometimes be difficult to work out whether special offers and promotional deals represent true value for money,” said consumer minister Margot James.
“This new guide will help traders give clear pricing information to their customers, who should be at the heart of every business.”