Supermarket chain Asda has been forced to change potentially misleading price deals following an investigation by the competition watchdog.
Asda was singled out by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in its investigation into supermarket pricing tactics, launched following a super-complaint by Which?, the consumer rights group.
The CMA said Asda had now "given a commitment" that it would "change the way it operates 'was/now' and multi-buy deals".
Other supermarkets also agreed they would voluntarily follow the new guidelines.
The Which? super-complaint, lodged in April last year, claimed retailers were using confusing pricing techniques to make "special offers" that looked like they would save shoppers money when in fact they would not.
That complaint has been borne out by the CMA investigation, which found there were "areas of poor practice that could confuse or mislead shoppers".
So, here's what to be weary of:
- Seasonal pricing were items appear to be sold at higher prices out of season and then put on 'special offer'
Which? found a Nestle Kit Kat Chunky Collection Giant Egg sold at £7.49 for just 10 days in January before being sold at £5 for 51 days.
- Confusing 'was/now' pricing where items have been on sale for longer at the lower price than they have at the higher price
According to Which?, in 2015 Heston from Waitrose Acacia Honey & Ginger Hot Cross Buns were advertised at £1.50 for just 12 days, before going on offer at "now £1.12 was £1.50" for 26 days.
- Multi-buys that cost less when bought as single items
In 2014, Asda was retailing a Chicago Town Four Cheese Pizza two-pack at £2 at the time of two-for-£3 offer, but when the 'offer' ended the price returned to £1.50, according to Which?
- Larger packs that claim to be better value but where individual items are actually more expensive
Tesco sold four cans of Green Giant Original Sweetcorn for £2 (was £2.44) in 2014, saying the larger pack was "special value" when in fact six cans were proportionally more expensive at £3.56, according to Which?
Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which?, called the CMA's investigation "a clear warning to retailers" not to mislead their customers.
"Following our super-complaint last year, we are pleased to see the CMA investigation has resulted in Asda taking action to stop misleading special offers" he said.
"Asda has been found breaking the rules and now must immediately clean up their act."
Asda chief executive Andy Clarke said: "We are consistently recognised as the UK's lowest price, full range supermarket, offering prices that are at least 10% less than those of our rivals.
"Asda has won the Grocer 33, the most credible pricing measure in our industry, for the last 18 years and we're pleased that the CMA has today recognised that we take pricing compliance seriously."