Flurry of complaints after Consumer NZ calls for Kiwis to report 'dodgy' supermarket specials

  • 19/01/2023
Rear view of young Asian mother groceries shopping for baby products in a supermarket. She is standing in front of the baby product aisle and have no idea which product to choose from
Photo credit: Getty

Aotearoa New Zealand's consumer watchdog has called out supermarket specials for being anything but.

Gemma Rasmussen from Kiritaki/Consumer NZ said they've received several complaints regarding confusing supermarket 'discount' pricing.

The watchdog launched its campaign in September last year, asking for Kiwis to pass on "examples of dodgy or confusing supermarket specials".

It was part of its attempt to stop "excessive super profits supermarkets are making at the expense of everyone else," Rasmussen said.

A dog food product from one supermarket had its 'great price' listed as $13.10, right next to its regular $12.50 price, Rasmussen told Newshub.

Terms like 'extra low', or 'on special', and even 'great price' are not meant to mislead customers about there being a true discount on the sale price.

Cheese at one retailer was 'on special' for $4.90, despite its $4.80 regular price still on display.

It comes after Australian-owned supermarket chain Countdown apologised yesterday because some specials advertised on its website were substantially lower than those actually on offer.

For example, strawberries were listed for $2.90 a punnet on the banner on its website, but they were actually sold for $3.60 a punnet.

A spokesperson from Countdown told Newshub they "always aim to ensure that our prices are clear, accurate and unambiguous for our customers". 

The spokesperson goes on to say they have a number of processes and staff to help achieve this, but "with thousands of products in each of our stores, occasionally mistakes do happen."

Countdown said it appears there was an error in the stores where the photos were taken of incorrect prices.

"The team has not updated the shelf tickets when the price of the products changed."

They urged customers to get in touch with the customer care team if they had concerns with pricing or ticketing.

"We apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused."

Rasmussen said supermarkets know how persuasive 'specials' or 'low price' terminology is.

"Our recent polling found only 5 percent of respondents don't bother with specials. We know these sales tactics appeal to consumers."

Kiritaki/Consumer NZ thinks it's unacceptable that pricing errors "seem to be happening on a regular basis," she said.

The Commerce Commission kicked off its market study into the grocery sector in November 2020, and it recommended supermarkets take responsibility for their pricing, and that their promotional practices are easy to understand.

"We are convinced supermarkets will not change their ways without pressure from the public," said Rasmussen.

With a strong spotlight on the sector right now, it's an interesting time to be in the grocery sector.