Online supermarkets rapped by OFT

Asda, Ocado, Sainsbury, Tesco and Waitrose have agreed to provide clearer pricing information after the OFT received complaints from customers
Written by Steve Ranger, Global News Director

Supermarkets selling groceries online have agreed to give customers better price information, following action by the Office for Fair Trading (OFT).

Asda, Ocado, Sainsbury, Tesco and Waitrose will provide clearer information about online pricing after the OFT received complaints from customers that prices charged for groceries on delivery were different from those advertised on the Web sites.

The supermarkets — with the exception of Ocado — use guide prices on their Web sites to show how much goods cost in-store on the day the order is placed.

But in most cases — again apart from Ocado — the actual prices customers pay will be the in-store prices on the day when goods are assembled for delivery, which may be different.

The OFT said the websites did not make it sufficiently clear that the prices shown were guide prices — or make it clear what relation they had to the actual prices customers would be charged.

It said Asda, Ocado, Sainsbury, Tesco and Waitrose have now agreed to provide "greater transparency" about their online shopping schemes. This will include upfront information about their guide price policies and how the online shopping process works, and making sure special offer prices quoted online are treated as firm prices for orders that are to be delivered in the offer period.

The OFT said customers grocery shopping online should check prices at the time of delivery against the guide prices quoted at the time of ordering. OFT chief executive John Fingleton said in a statement: "We welcome the supermarkets' improvements to the information available to customers buying groceries online. Customers have a right to clear and transparent information upfront when making their buying decisions."

Ocado operates a warehouse system specifically for its shopping service designed to facilitate their online grocery service. It sells goods at a fixed price, except for goods sold by weight, and has agreed to provide clearer information to customers about prices for these goods.

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