Commerce Commission 'assessing' price-gouging accusations against McDonald's

The Commerce Commission is "assessing" allegations of price-gouging against McDonald's after it received multiple queries about cost differences on the fast food giant's app.

Newshub approached the Commerce Commission after revelations McDonald's was offering meal deals at different prices on its app - based on "personalisation". 

In a social media post on Tuesday, the fast food giant was accused of "price-gouging" and "terrible behaviour".

The post on Reddit was accompanied by screenshots from the McDonald's app, one of which had an 'any burger medium combo & double cheeseburger' priced at $14, and the other at $17. A deal for two McFlurrys was also priced differently - one at $7 and the other at $8.50.

Commerce Commission Fair Trading General Manager Kirsten Mannix told Newshub it had "received four enquiries related to McDonald's, alleging price differences across users" of its app.

Mannix said while the commission hadn't investigated the matter and couldn't comment specifically, "we will be assessing the information received".

"In general, businesses are free to set their own prices for products and services in New Zealand," she said in a statement.

"However it is important that pricing claims are clear, accurate and unambiguous."

The key for businesses was thinking about the overall "impression that consumers might take away" from pricing claims, Mannix said.

"If a business advertises a product online at a specific price, then consumers can reasonably expect that the same price will apply in-store," she explained.

Photo credit: BattleScones/Reddit

"A business is unlikely to breach the Fair Trading Act where statements are made to sufficiently explain that price difference (for example, with 'prices may differ in-store' or 'online prices only' statements)."

A McDonald's spokesperson said on Wednesday the pricing for its loyalty programme was clear.

"How the benefits are offered and data is used is spelled out in the terms and conditions. Individual offers will differ between users, based on a variety of factors," the spokesperson said in a statement.

"Due to the personalisation of our app, not all customers will see the same deals and, as an example, a deal may be offered to encourage [the] use of the app on the customer's next visit."

The company also said its loyalty programme "continues to evolve" and "we listen to our customers and their feedback, and factor that into future planning".