Monday, May 20, 2024

CHOICE: promo pricing continues to confuse

Discount or mere attention-grabber? That is the question…

New nationally representative data from consumer group CHOICE has revealed on average one in four people find it difficult to identify if certain supermarket labels represent a true discount or not.

The survey reflects similar findings from a CHOICE survey in February, while highlighting specific examples of confusing labels.

CHOICE asked over 1,000 consumers if they could tell if a variety of price tags photographed at Woolworths, Coles and ALDI stores represented discounts on the usual price, and how easily and quickly they were able to determine whether it was a discount or not.

A Coles ‘while stocks last’ tag caused the most confusion, says CHOICE Director of Campaigns, Rosie Thomas.

“When we asked our respondents if this price was a discount on the usual price, approximately one third believed the product was discounted, roughly another third believed it wasn’t and the remaining third were not sure,” he said.

“Less than half of respondents said they could quickly and easily identify if the ‘while stocks last’ label was a discount or not, reinforcing just how confusing this tag is. To make things worse, even after asking Coles, CHOICE still doesn’t know if this is a discount or not,” Mr Thomas added.

CHOICE says the countless types of labels used by the major supermarkets are clearly confusing consumers, who are struggling to determine what is and is not a genuine discount.

“This is particularly concerning considering many people are trying to make their grocery shop as affordable as possible in a cost of living crisis,” Mr Thomas said.

“For many of the labels in our survey, less than half of the respondents could quickly and easily determine if a product was discounted or not. If those are the results for an online survey, people rushing to do their weekly shop in a busy supermarket will likely have even less of a chance of correctly decoding these unclear labels,” he said.

Choice also highlighted a ‘prices dropped’ label used by Woolworths on a coconut water – the price of which had dropped from $6 to $4 in 2019.

“We have doubts about whether a product that has been the same price for almost five years should be promoted as having a ‘dropped’ price,” Mr Thomas said. “It’s no wonder consumers were confused as to whether it’s actually discounted or not.”

CHOICE has made a submission to the ACCC Supermarkets Inquiry calling for stronger rules about how prices are displayed. It recommends rules to stop supermarkets from using terms, designs or colours that indicate a discount is being offered when the product is not discounted.

“We have had hundreds of people share examples of potentially misleading pricing practices at the major supermarkets, with many being confused about whether a product is discounted or value for money. People are sick of feeling like they are being tricked by the supermarkets each time they head in store or online,” Mr Thomas said.

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