Tesco has been fined GBP300,000 (US$469,403) over a “misleading” promotional campaign in the UK.

Tesco was issued the fine at Birmingham Crown Court today (19 August) following a prosecution by Birmingham City Council for “misleading the public” over a ‘half price’ offer regarding punnets of strawberries.

The case, which began following a complaint from a shopper at a store in Sheldon, Birmingham, was widened to Tesco stores nationally.

During the summer of 2011, Tesco sold 400g punnets of British strawberries marked as ‘half price’ – GBP1.99 with the previous prices of GBP2.99 and GBP3.99 crossed out.

The offer ran for 14 weeks – longer than the original price, breaching guidelines laid down under Consumer Protection regulations.

Birmingham City Council argued the offers were presented in a way that “mislead or was likely to deceive the average consumer”. It added: “The price or the manner in which the price had been calculated was likely to cause the average consumer to make a transactional decision that they would not otherwise have made.”

Tesco admitted a number of offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations Act 2008 during the hearing.

In a statement, a Tesco spokesperson said: “We apologise sincerely for this mistake, which was made in the summer of 2011. We sell over 40,000 products in our stores, with thousands on promotion at any one time, but even one mistake is one too many. Since then, to make sure this doesn’t happen again we’ve given colleagues additional training and reminded them of their responsibilities to ensure we always adhere to the guidelines on pricing.”

Head of Trading Standards for Birmingham City Council, Sajeela Naseer, said the ruling was “not only a victory for Birmingham customers” but that it also had “wider benefits for all consumers across the country”.

“It was the council’s case, confirmed by Tesco’s guilty pleas today, that this was a misleading offer which deceived the purchasers of strawberries over many weeks during the summer of 2011,” Naseer added.

“Food pricing, presentation and the depiction of promotional practices is a crucial issue for retailers, and in turn, consumers. We are happy to work with Trading Standards departments up and down the country to help protect customers.”