Competition & Markets Authority
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CMA calls on grocery stores to make accurate pricing a priority

CMA review indicates that some independent and smaller grocery retailers are failing to display clear and accurate prices.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has reviewed the way a range of grocery retailers displayed their prices in-store to assess whether they were clear, accurate and matched the price people were charged at the till.

The review looked at the price marking practices of 139 grocery stores in England and Wales, including supermarket chains, symbol convenience stores (small, independent retailers that operate under a symbol brand name), variety stores and independent food stores.

The CMA conducted on-site inspections and looked at a sample of products – such as fresh fruit and vegetables and products on promotion. During inspections at some stores, the CMA found examples where the retailer was displaying inaccurate prices or failed to display prices at all for certain products. Failing to provide clear and accurate pricing information for products on sale is a breach of consumer law.

These findings were reinforced by similar work carried out by some regional and local Trading Standards (TS) across England and Wales, and previous work by the Society of Chief Officers of Trading Standards in Scotland (SCOTSS) and Northern Ireland Trading Standards (TSNI) across their respective nations.

Overall, the majority of issues were found at independent food stores and symbol convenience stores. The most common types of issues seen were missing prices, conflicting prices (instances where prices indicated on products conflicted with those shown on shelf edge labels) and prices not being displayed sufficiently close to products.

There were also issues with prices not being clearly legible, the selling price being obscured, and multibuy promotion labels that didn’t specify the price of the items individually.

The percentage of pricing errors found at each type of store were:

  • Supermarkets: 4.2%
  • Symbol convenience stores: 14.4%
  • Variety stores: 5.6%
  • Independent food stores: 7.8%

Overall, 60% of the errors resulted in a higher price being charged at the till. Further breakdowns by store type can be found in the report.

As a result of these findings, the CMA, in conjunction with Trading Standards, yesterday published compliance materials aimed at helping grocery retailers understand what they need to do to comply with the law. The CMA is also calling on the relevant trade associations to share these compliance materials with their members.

George Lusty, Interim Executive Director for Consumer Protection and Markets at the CMA, yesterday said:

We know how frustrating it can be when you get to the till only to find the price doesn’t match what was advertised. While lots of grocery retailers – particularly supermarkets – are complying with pricing rules, this needs to consistently be the case across all types of stores.

It’s important that shoppers can make well-informed choices based on accurate information, especially at a time when lots of people are looking to save money. That’s why we are reminding businesses of the importance of complying with consumer law.

The full report can be read on our review of price marking in the groceries sector page.

Notes to Editors

  1. The price marking inspections involved checking whether grocery stores were complying with their consumer law obligations as set out in the Price Marking Order 2004 (PMO) and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs).
  2. This work follows a separate review by the CMA last year which looked at how grocery retailers are displaying unit pricing information in-store and online. The review showed problems with unit pricing which may affect consumers’ ability to compare products and indicated that some of the problems stemmed from the legislation itself.  As a result, the CMA made recommendations to Government to reform the PMO, which it has agreed to do.
  3. Grocery store definitions used by the CMA:
    • Symbol convenience stores  – small independent retailers that operate under a symbol brand name.
    • Variety stores – large retailers that sell general merchandise such as hardware, toys, furniture and seasonal goods alongside a selection of groceries.
    • Independent food stores – independent supermarkets and larger grocery stores.
  4. The PMO requires traders to display the total selling price of goods (and, unless exempt, the unit price) in a way that is unambiguous, easily identifiable, and clearly legible. This information must be available and given in proximity to the goods so that consumers do not have to seek it from the trader.
  5. The CPRs  require traders give customers the material information they need – such as the price of goods - to make an informed decision. If pricing information is missing, incorrect or confusing such that it affects whether the consumer would or would not have bought the goods if they had known the correct price, a breach of the law is likely to have been committed. The review of price marking practices was prompted by similar action taken by the Society of Chief Officers of Trading Standards in Scotland (SCOTSS) and Northern Ireland Trading Standards (TSNI) (across their respective nations).
  6. For media enquiries, contact the CMA press office on 020 3738 6460 or

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