An Asda supermarket outlet in Hellesdon, Norwich, has been fined £9,000 for misleading local customers over its “roll back now even lower” price reductions.
District Judge Patrick Heley ruled that by using price figures over six months old while making price comparisons, Asda’s discount promotion would have significantly “misled” customers.
Prosecuting, Miles Bennett argued that sometimes the prices in the roll back promotion never actually got any lower: “The roll back now even lower price for Asda crisps was £1.15 but the crisps had been available for £1.15 for the last eight months.”
The fine reflected £1,000 for each of the firm’s nine counts of breaching the Consumer Protection Act. It was found not guilty on another two counts, but also ordered to pay more than £5,000 in costs.
An investigation into Asda’s pricing was launched by trading standards officials in Norfolk after rival supermarket Tesco filed a complaint.
Asda spokesman Nick Agarwal told just-food.com that the company believed it was acting in the best interests of customers by maintaining consistently low prices, a fact that explains why short term discounts were not always easily identified.
The problem was one of policy, he argued, adding: “We think the rules need to be revised, because they discriminate against the retailers who [keep prices low in throughout the long term].”
The supermarket group has now changed its pricing policy to ensure that a similar incident could not occur.