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Sainsbury's v Tesco: price comparison feud may go to court

View profile for Justin Emerson
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The dispute originated when Sainsbury’s took umbrage to Tesco’s Price Promise Campaign whereby customers are encouraged to compare product prices with rival supermarkets.  In the event that a comparable product is found to be cheaper elsewhere, Tesco’s offer to pay the difference in price in the form of vouchers.  According to Sainsbury’s, problems arise when such campaigns include supermarket ‘own brand’ products, which are not directly comparable. 

Sainsbury’s claim that with regard to own brand products, consumers are being misled by the Tesco’s campaign.  They are concerned that key differences such as quality of the products and how they are sourced, are not being taken into account.  For example, Sainsbury’s ‘Basics’ tea is fair-trade whereas Tesco’s ‘Everyday Value’ tea is not – an example of comparison gone awry according to Sainsbury’s.  Sainsbury’s believe that over 1,000 of their products have thus been unfairly compared.  Whilst they do conduct their own price comparison campaign, it relates only to branded products where it is evident that customers are comparing like with like.

In its defence, Tesco has argued that its campaign offers customers reassurance on the price of their entire shop and not just on branded products and that it assists in helping families to control tight budgets.

Sainsbury’s has already taken its complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority, however, the Authority disagreed with Sainsbury’s assertions and deemed the campaign to be a fair one.  A subsequent appeal was also unsuccessful.

Sainsbury’s next step has been to demand judicial review of the decision to be heard next summer; the first time a supermarket has taken the ASA to court over a decision.

The above is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues. 

If you require further information please contact Justin Emerson on 01245 228113 or email emersonj@gepp.co.uk