Supermarkets Accused of Price Inflation to Boost Loyalty Schemes Appeal


Loyalty schemes offered by supermarkets may not be as bargain-filled as they seem, asserts a prominent consumer rights organization. According to investigations by Which?, Sainsbury’s and Tesco are allegedly inflating standard product prices, thereby making the promotional prices available through loyalty schemes seem more attractive than their actual value.

Negating these accusations, the supermarkets attested that every alteration in pricing is due to the inescapable effects of inflation. Both Sainsbury’s and Tesco voiced out that the claims disregarded the role of inflation in their pricing dynamics, and they maintain strict adherence to trading standards rules on promotions with respect to pricing.

Over a half-year period, the consumer organization analyzed pricing history to establish if the usually advertised price indeed represented the common sale price. Their findings depicted that approximately one-third (29%) of the member-only deals were available at their so-called standard pricing for less than half of the time during that period.

Respecting its investigation into the escalating usage of loyalty schemes in supermarkets, Which? highlighted concerns about deals where the lower tier of pricing was only accessible to scheme-registered customers. An instance that aroused suspicion was a jar of Nescafe Gold Blend Instant Coffee (200g) advertised at Sainsbury’s for £6 with a Nectar card – a £2.10 saving on the usual price of £8.10. Nevertheless, the standard price had also been £6 before it jumped to £8.10 two days before the Nectar price was introduced, stated Which? In response to this, Sainsbury’s refuted the claim, labeling it as a result of a flawed methodology, as the ‘base’ price has consistently been £8.10 since December 2022 with £6 being a promotional price throughout the year.

Meanwhile, a similar incident involved Tesco’s Clubcard price of £3.50 for Heinz Salad Cream (605g), which was regularly priced at £3.90, but had been £2.99 for a few weeks before its increase that occurred only 22 days before the Clubcard promotion. Which? discovered that the condiment had been available at its regular price for merely 14% of the preceding six months.

Furthermore, Which? has presented its findings to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), inquiring into the possibility of supermarkets inflating their standard prices to convince loyalty scheme customers into believing they scored a discount deal. Commenting on the matter, a CMA spokesperson emphasized the pressing notion of grocery prices amongst people nationwide and the necessity for shoppers to decipher the best value for their money. Consequently, the CMA is set to examine the information provided by Which? on its latest investigation into loyalty scheme prices.


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