Supermarkets slammed for multi-buy rip-offs

Which? have shone their investigative spotlight on supermarket 'special offers', which according to the consumer champion, aren't very special after all.

Which? examined 700,000 products during a period of 12 months and has castigated multi-buy 'offers' from the likes of Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Ocado. Let's look at some of Which's allegations in detail.



Rubbish offers?

First, says Which?, supermarket multi-buy 'offers' are often priced at a more expensive ticket price than the original price per item. "For example, Asda doubled the price of a single Müller yoghurt from 30p to 61p as they went onto multibuy at 10 for £4. The price went back to 30p when the offer ended. This meant the yoghurt cost more per item when you bought 10 under the offer than when you bought one before or after it."

Then there's prices being increased immediately before going on 'offer' making the discount appear better. "For example," says Which?, "Ocado strawberries increased in price from £3.89 to £4.38 for 13 days. They were then sold as 'was £4.38 now £2.19/£2.29/£2.25' for 112 days, though there were nine days within this period when they were sold at £4.38."
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Not such a great deal

"We saw items that yo-yoed between discount and multibuy," adds Which? "For instance one product was sold as 'was £3.46 now £3' – except that it was on multibuy at 2 for £6 for the majority of time it was at the higher price of £3.46. So provided you bought two, it was £3 all along."

Which? now wants government guidelines on pricing to be tightened up. "While the existing rules are supposed to make sure that supermarket special offers don't mislead shoppers, we feel they leave too many loopholes. For example, the rules state that the 'was' price should be the most recent price a product was sold at for 28 consecutive days, and a product shouldn't ordinarily be on offer for longer than it was at the higher price."

However supermarkets can simply get around these rules says Which, by explaining the offer on a sign stating the date(s) something [product] was at a higher price. "The rules also include the coverall get-out clause by stating that what is 'reasonable' depends on the individual circumstances."


Right of reply

Tesco responded to the Which? allegations. "At Tesco, we are committed to helping our customers keep the cost of their shopping down, including through price promotions. We change millions of price labels in store and online each week and we do sometimes make mistakes, for which we apologise."

Morrisons responded too: "On chilled lines such as fruit juice or yoghurt, some shoppers will buy several packs for their families whereas others only need one. We use different promotional mechanics – multi-buys and discounted single unit price - to ensure all our customers can enjoy lower prices at different times. The multi-buy price is always cheaper per unit than the standard price."

So, there you have it. The bottom line has to be to treat supermarket special 'offers' with some scepticism until the Government is prepared to act. Have you been duped, do you think, by so-called 'special offers'? Let us know.

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Supermarkets slammed for multi-buy rip-offs

Using a mobile phone to make and receive calls, send texts and browse the web while abroad can be extremely costly – especially if you are travelling outside the European Union (EU), where calls can cost up to 10 times as much as at home.

To avoid high charges, Carphone Warehouse suggests tourists ensure a data cap is in place, use applications to check data usage, turn off 'data roaming', avoid data-intensive applications such as Google Maps and YouTube and use wi-fi spots to update social networking sites.

Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) is supposed to help people to continue meeting their loan, mortgage or credit card repayments if they fall ill or lose their jobs. However, policies are often over-priced, riddled with exclusions and sold to people who could not make a claim if they needed to.

At one point, sale of this cover - which was often included automatically in loan repayments - was estimated to boost the banks' profits by up to £5 billion a year.
Now, though, consumers who were mis-sold PPI can fight back by complaining to the bank or lender concerned and taking their case to the Financial Ombudsman Service (08000 234567) should the response prove unsatisfactory.

It could be you, but let's face it, it probably won't be. In fact, buying a ticket for the Lotto only gives you a 1 in 13.9 million chance of winning the jackpot.

With odds like that, you would almost certainly be better off hanging on to your cash and saving it in a high-interest account.

No-frills airlines such as EasyJet may promote rock-bottom prices on their websites. But the overall fare you pay can be surprisingly high once extras such as luggage and credit card payment fees have been added - a process known as drip pricing.

Taking one piece of hold baggage on a return EasyJet flight, for example, adds close to £20 to the cost of your flight, while paying by credit card increases the price by a further £10.
It may therefore be worth comparing the total cost with that of a flight with a standard airline such as British Airways.

Cash advances, which include cash withdrawals, are generally charged at a much higher rate of interest than standard purchases.

While the average credit card interest rate is around 17%, a typical cash withdrawal of £500, for example, is charged at more than 26%.
What's more, as the interest accrues from the date of the transaction, rather than the next payment date, costs will mount up even if you clear your balance in full with your next payment.

Supermarkets such as Tesco and Asda often run promotions under which you can, for example, get three products for the price of two.

However, it is only worth taking advantage of these deals if you will actually use the products. Otherwise, you are simply buying for the sake of it, which is a waste of your hard-earned cash.
To avoid paying over the odds, it is also worth checking the price per kilo to ensure that larger 'economy' packs really are cheaper than the smaller versions.

Buy a train ticket at the station on the day of travel and the price is likely to give you a shock - especially if you are travelling a long distance at a busy time of day.

However, you can cut the cost of train travel by 50% or more by going online and making the purchase beforehand - especially if you book 12 weeks in advance, which is when the cheapest tickets are on sale.
Other ways to reduce the price you pay include avoiding peak times and taking advantage of so-called carnet tickets, which allow you to buy, for example, 12 journeys for the price of 10.

Most High Street banks offer packaged accounts that come with monthly fees ranging from £6.50 up to as much as £40, with a typical account charging about £15 per month.

Various benefits, such as travel insurance and mobile phone insurance, are offered in return for this fee. But whether or not it is worth paying for them depends on your individual circumstances.
Before signing up, it is therefore essential to check that you will make use of enough of the benefits, and that you cannot get them for less elsewhere.

Overseas money transfers or travel money purchases attract the same high rate of interest as credit card cash withdrawals.

Worse still, most credit cards – and debit cards – also charge you a foreign loading fee if you use them to make purchases while abroad.
You can, however, avoid these charges by using a Saga Platinum or Nationwide Building Society credit card.

Numbers starting 0871 cost 10p or more from a landline, while those starting 09 can cost more than £1 a minute from a mobile phone.

And the operators of these high-cost phone lines, some of which are banks, often get a cut of the call charges.
Most 09 numbers are linked to scams and should therefore be avoided at all costs, while 0871 numbers can often be bypassed by searching for an alternative local rate numbers on the saynoto0870.com.
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