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Tesco prosecuted over “half price” strawberry offer

Tesco Stores Limited has been fined £300,000 for misleading the public on a “half price” strawberry offer, following a prosecution by Birmingham City Council.

The national retailer was prosecuted under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations Act 2008 at Birmingham Crown Court.

The case concerns the Tesco store on the Coventry Road in Sheldon and was widened to Tesco stores nationally. It was brought to Trading Standards’ attention by a local shopper at the Birmingham store.

During various dates in summer 2011, Tesco sold 400g punnets of British strawberries marked as ‘half price’ – £1.99 with the previous prices of £2.99 and £3.99 crossed out. Under the pricing practices guide, the length of the new lower price sale should not be more than which the old higher price was available. Tesco’s offer (at £1.99) ran for 14 weeks. Its original higher price strawberries (£3.99) were sold for a much shorter length of time.

Tesco then proceeded to create a further offer relating to 400g punnets of British strawberries, which were on sale at £1.99 including a pot of cream – marked ‘£1.99 free fresh single cream 150ml’. This offer had no mention of a previous price and the strawberries were then back on sale at £1.99 without the pot of cream with the indication that they were once again ‘half price.’

Birmingham City Council argued both offers were presented in a way that misled or was likely to deceive the average consumer. The price or the manner in which the price had been calculated was likely to cause the average consumer to make a transactional decision that they would not otherwise have made.

Speaking after the case head of trading standards for Birmingham City Council, Sajeela Naseer, said, “This is not only a victory for Birmingham customers it also has wider benefits for all consumers across the country.

“It was the council’s case, confirmed by Tesco’s guilty pleas today, that this was a misleading offer which deceived the purchasers of strawberries over many weeks during the summer of 2011.

“Food pricing, presentation and the depiction of promotional practices is a crucial issue for retailers, and in turn, consumers. We are happy to work with Trading Standards departments up and down the country to help protect customers.”

A Tesco spokesperson stated, “We apologise sincerely for this mistake, which was made in the summer of 2011. We sell over 40,000 products in our stores, with thousands on promotion at any one time, but even one mistake is one too many. Since then, to make sure this doesn’t happen again we’ve given colleagues additional training and reminded them of their responsibilities to ensure we always adhere to the guidelines on pricing.”

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