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CTSI supports CMA call for grocery stores to make accurate pricing a priority and co-badges business guidance materials

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has called for grocery stores to prioritise accurate pricing for consumers after finding inaccurate pricing in some stores. The CMA conducted a review of price marking in grocery stores, assessing whether shops had price marking that was accurate, clearly displayed and which matched the prices charged at the till.

The CMA has published business guidance in conjunction with Trading Standards, on how to become compliant with price marking legislation, and the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) is pleased to co-badge these new materials to support businesses and ensure consumers get accurate pricing.

The CMA conducted on-site inspections of 139 retail establishments in England and Wales. This included supermarket chains, symbol convenience stores (small, independent retailers operating under a symbol brand name), variety stores and independent food stores. The samples of products inspected were items like fresh fruit and vegetables and products on promotion at the time.

During the inspections, the CMA discovered various cases of non-compliance, such as retailers displaying inaccurate prices or failing to display prices at all for certain products. This could a breach of consumer law, as retailers are obliged to provide clear and accurate pricing information for consumers in their stores.

As well as the inspections conducted by the CMA themselves, this work was supported by similar checks carried out by various regional and local Trading Standards professionals across England and Wales. The CMA’s study also built on previous pricing work done by the Society of Chief Officers of Trading Standards in Scotland (SCOTSS) and Northern Ireland Trading Standards (TSNI), in their own nations. The main objective of this latest work was to ascertain whether the pricing concerns already identified in Scotland and Northern Ireland are also a problem for consumers based in England.

The percentage of errors found in each type of inspected store were as follows:

  1. Supermarkets: 4.2%
  2. Symbol convenience stores: 14.4%
  3. Variety stores: 5.6%
  4. Independent food stores: 7.8%

Over 60% of these errors led to a higher price being charged for the item at the till, and most of these non-compliance issues were found in symbol convenience stores and independent food stores, compared to larger supermarkets and variety retailers. There was a very large range of compliance reported within the smaller stores, with some having high level of accuracy, while others contained whole shelves or sections of the store which failed to display selling prices for a wide range of goods.
Compliance was very high in supermarkets, with no errors recorded at 57% of the stores, and a single error reported at 20% of the inspected stores. The CMA has voiced concerns that their inspections seem to indicate that some retailers are not aware of their legal obligations, while some viewed the relevant aspects of consumer law as optional, rather than mandatory.

John Herriman, Chief Executive at CTSI, said:

“Transparency in pricing is a core issue for Trading Standards. The findings released today by the CMA is vital to assess compliance in relation to price marking in England and Wales. This is an area that really affects consumers, especially during the cost-of-living crisis, and we need to make sure that businesses are displaying and charging the correct prices, giving the consumer the right information to make informed purchasing decisions.

“Here at CTSI, in addition to co-badging these excellent new business resources, we will continue to support businesses with our free business guidance available on Business Companion, which is a much-needed resource, especially needed for small businesses.”

Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said:

“We are pleased that the research found that only a very small handful of convenience stores made errors in price marking, and that those errors were sometimes in the customer’s favour and sometimes in the retailer’s favour.

“While we are disappointed with any instances of non-compliance found in the CMA’s inspections, these findings and the results of regular trading standards surveys into price marking show the vast majority of the industry are handling compliance very well. We will continue to promote compliance among our sector, including sharing some helpful new resources produced by the CMA.”


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