News & Insights

CMA’s latest report highlights importance of accurate price marking

Following its latest review of in-store price marking practices at grocery retailers, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has called independent and smaller grocery retailers to take action on displaying clearer and more accurate prices.

The CMA published a report following a review of the in-store marking practices of 139 grocery stores in England and Wales. The CMA focused on the groceries sector due to it being an area where many people spend a lot of their time and money. Overall, the review was based on assessing whether pricing in groceries stores was clear, accurate and matched the prices people were charged at the till. The grocery stores which were reviewed included supermarkets, symbol convenience stores, variety stores and independent food stores. The findings of the review were that the most common types of non-compliant practices were missing prices, conflicting prices (where tags on products did not match those on the shelf edges) and prices not being displayed sufficiently close to products. The CMA has since published compliance materials which are intended to help grocery retailers understand what they need to do to comply with their obligations.

What legislation is there for price marking?

Grocery stores in Great Britain must comply with their obligations under consumer law, in particular those set out in the Price Marking Order 2004 (the PMO) and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs). The following points from this legislation are relevant to the CMA’s recent review:

  • Under the PMO, traders must display the total selling price of goods (and, unless exempt, the unit price) in a way that is unambiguous, easily identifiable, and clearly legible, and such information must be available and given in proximity to the goods so that the consumer doesn’t have to seek it from the trader.
  • Under the CPRs, traders must give the customer the material information they need (including the price of goods) to make an informed decision about whether to buy the goods. There is likely to be a breach of the law if there is a problem with this information (such as it not existing or being wrong or confusing) to the extent that the consumer may not have bought the goods if they knew the correct price.

What can traders learn from the CMA’s recent review into price marking?

The CMA’s review serves as an important reminder to traders in all sectors of the importance of their obligations to consumers, not solely because of the legal imperative of complying with the rules but also from a commercial perspective (providing clear information in the current cost-of-living crisis is likely to foster customer goodwill). This applies not only to in-store price information but also to online pricing.

Businesses should have in place effective policies and procedures to help them make sure that the prices they display are up to date and comply with consumer protection laws.

If you have any questions arising from this article or relating to consumer law more generally, please contact FSP’s Commercial & Technology team.