Tesco has been fined £300,000 for misleading consumers with a half-price offer on punnets of strawberries.
The supermarket fell foul of rules that stipulate a lower-priced offer cannot run for longer than the product was on full price.
During various dates in 2011, Tesco sold 400g punnets of strawberries on a ‘half price offer’ of £1.99. This ran for 14 weeks, longer than the period the strawberries were available at the original £3.99 price.
Tesco also made a further offer of a £1.99 punnet with a free pot of cream worth £1.99. This offer made no mention of the previous punnet price.
“We hope this sends out a message to other national retailers that it is their responsibility to ensure that offers are presented to the public in a careful, clear and truthful way”
Sajeela Naseer, Birmingham City Council
Birmingham City Council argued that both offers were presented in a way that misled or was likely to deceive the average consumer, after the case was brought to trading standards officers by a local shopper. The case began at the Coventry Road store in Sheldon but was widened to include stores nationwide.
The Council won its case in Birmingham Crown Court today, with the judge imposing a £300,000 fine under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations Act 2008.
“This is not only a victory for Birmingham customers it also has wider benefits for all consumers across the country,” said head of trading standards for Birmingham City Council Sajeela Naseer.
“The Council is firmly of the belief that this was not a genuine offer and this has been confirmed in court today. We hope this sends out a message to other national retailers that it is their responsibility to ensure that offers are presented to the public in a careful, clear and truthful way.
“Food pricing, presentation and the depiction of promotional practices is a crucial issue for retailers, and in turn, consumers. We are happy to work with Trading Standards departments up and down the country to help protect customers.”
A Tesco spokeswoman said: “We apologise sincerely for this mistake, which was made in the summer of 2011. We sell over 40,000 products in our stores, with thousands on promotion at any one time, but even one mistake is one too many. Since then, to make sure this doesn’t happen again, we’ve given colleagues additional training and reminded them of their responsibilities to ensure we always adhere to the guidelines on pricing.”
Tesco had argued at a preliminary hearing earlier this year that Birmingham City Council did not have jurisdiction to proceed with the case outside the city; however, the Council successfully argued that the offer would affect local residents who shopped outside Birmingham.
John Pal, senior lecturer in retailing at Manchester Business School, said: “Despite major supermarket retailers’ recent voluntary signing up to the Office of Fair Trading’s protocols on pricing, today’s judgment and hefty fine serves as a wake-up call to all retailers.
“Whilst the tenacious resolve of one customer has brought this case to light, it is not at all clear if there are any similar cases in the pipeline. What is for sure, all retailers will be more vigilant over pricing practices.”