CHOICE: ‘Confusing’ price promotions leave shoppers in the dark on supermarket discounts

Sean Smith
The Nightly
2 Min Read
Choice wants to see greater transparency on supermarket discounts.
Choice wants to see greater transparency on supermarket discounts. Credit: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images

Major supermarket chains have been accused of potentially misleading shoppers with price promotions that offer little or no discount.

Research by consumer advocacy group Choice suggests as few as one-quarter of shoppers know whether promotional labels at Coles, Woolworths and Aldi actually represent a price saving.

“Consumers look for products that are the best value for money but it is becoming increasingly difficult for people to decipher the promotional tags being used by the supermarkets,” Choice said.

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In a submission to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the group said Coles’ “While Stocks Last” tag caused the most confusion, with just one-third of shoppers believing products tagged with the promotion were discounted and another one-third unsure.

“To make thing worse, even after asking Coles, Choice still doesn’t know if this a discount or not,” Choice director of campaigns Rosie Thomas said.

Choice also questioned the discount validity of Woolworths’ “Prices Dropped” label and Aldi’s “Super Savers” tag.

“Consumers are drawn to promotional tags that make it look like one product is potentially better value or a good deal, compared to other products,” Choice said.

However, the labels are “confusing and potentially misleading” and without contextual information or historical pricing data, “consumers have no way of knowing if they are getting a good deal or not”.

Choice said for all the labels covered by its survey of 1000 shoppers, on average one in four people did not know whether the label represented a discount on the usual price.

“In addition, large numbers of consumers from our research incorrectly interpreted labels to mean products were discounted and many said they were not able to quickly and easily determine if a product was discounted or not.”

Choice says the supermarket chains should have to provide the ACCC with historical pricing data so that changes can be tracked over time and wants them held to a mandatory information standard that ensures “clear and consistent” pricing and discounts.

It also wants a government ban on multi-buy discounts on essential items such as fruit, vegetables, milk, bread, baby formula, sanitary items and pharmaceuticals.

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