The Competition and Markets Authority has called on grocery retailers to check how they price goods. This follows last year’s CMA review about how prices are displayed in grocery shops to assess if they were clear, accurate and matched the price people were charged at the till.

Last year, the CMA also 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 recommended reforms to the Price Marking Order 2004.

This latest review looked at the price marking practices of supermarket chains, symbol convenience stores (small, independent retailers that operate under a symbol brand name), variety stores and independent food stores.

The CMA and Trading Standards conducted on-site inspections and looked at a sample of products – such as fresh fruit and vegetables and products on promotion. They found instances where the retailer was displaying inaccurate prices or failing to display prices at all for certain products. 

The CMA says that most 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.

Other problems included:

  • prices not being clearly legible;
  • the selling price being obscured; and
  • multibuy promotion labels that didn’t specify the price of the items individually. 

Overall, 60% of the errors resulted in a higher price being charged at the till. 

Alongside the report, the CMA and Trading Standards have published a compliance poster aimed at giving guidance to grocery retailers and their trade associations about how to comply with the law. 

With the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill likely to become law before the end of 2024, the CMA will soon receive enhanced powers to issues fines and other penalties for breaches of consumer protection law. Consequently, retailers should review their pricing practices now.