Supermarkets Under Scrutiny for ‘Deceptive’ Loyalty Card Discounts

A woman choosing milk in a supermarket

Supermarkets are using potentially dodgy tactics on loyalty offers said Which? Credit: pressfoto/Freepik

Supermarkets are employing questionable tactics with their loyalty offers, creating the illusion of more significant savings than reality, reveals a recent investigation by Which?

Until recently, the notion of identical products having different prices for various customers might have seemed dubious. However, this practice has now become commonplace in several major UK supermarkets.

The trend of member-only pricing, where loyal customers pay less than non-members, is rapidly gaining popularity following numerous advertising campaigns.

In a six-month analysis of numerous member-only offers at Tesco and Sainsbury’s, Which? found that nearly a third of these offers were priced at their supposed ‘regular’ rate for less than half of that time.

These findings have been shared with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

Here are some of the worst examples they discovered at Tesco:

  • Heinz Salad Cream (605g) at Tesco – Clubcard price £3.50, regular price £3.90. The regular price was £2.99 at Tesco for several weeks before being raised to £3.90 just 22 days before the Clubcard promotion. It had only been at its ‘regular price’ for 14 per cent of the previous six months.
  • Persil 3 in 1 Non-Bio (50 washes) at Tesco – Clubcard price £10.80, regular price £12. The ‘regular’ price was increased from £10 to £12 just eight weeks before the Clubcard price was introduced.
  • Blue Dragon Sweet Chilli Sauce (380g) at Tesco – Clubcard price £2, regular price £2.70. It had only been at this ‘regular’ price for eight days before the promotion, accounting for just 4 per cent of the time over the previous six months.
  • Jammie Dodgers (140g) at Tesco – Clubcard price 65p, regular price 80p. They were priced at 80p for only three weeks before the promotion, having been at 75p before that. They were only at their ‘regular’ price for 16 per cent of the previous six months.

The investigation raises concerns that supermarkets may be inflating their ‘regular’ prices to create the illusion of discounts for loyalty scheme customers.

Non-members are essentially overpaying.

Which? is urging supermarkets to ensure that non-member prices accurately reflect the true cost, making the savings genuinely meaningful. Customers providing their data to access these discounts should expect nothing less.

Tesco told Which? all its Clubcard Price promotions followed strict rules, including looking at how they compared against prices at other supermarkets, to ensure they represented genuine value and savings. It said these rules had been endorsed by Trading Standards.

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Written by

Jo Pugh

Jo Pugh is a journalist based in the Costa Blanca North. Originally from London, she has been involved in journalism and photography for 20 years. She has lived in Spain for 12 years, and is a dedicated and passionate writer.

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