A group of cross-party MPs are calling on Government to force supermarkets to make price data available in a standardised format to encourage more consumer friendly price comparison apps and help shoppers “avoid being ripped off by dodgy special offers”.
The move is led by former Cabinet Minister and Labour MP for Southampton John Denham who will issue a Private Member’s Bill on 15 January, calling for greater transparency on pricing data to give power back to consumers. Five as yet unnamed MPs are supporting the Bill. It will also be supported by Which?.
The move to introduce standardised data would mean that more entrepreneurs and coders could develop apps that would help consumers see through the confusing and often misleading pricing in supermarkets, he says.
Denham says it would give shoppers instant online access to supermarket prices, product by product, store by store and across the country and increase the power of consumers to get a good deal.
It is envisaged retailers including Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, The Co-operative Group, Marks & Spencer and discounters Aldi, Lidl and Iceland would be included. The proposals would not apply to convenience stores.
He added that it would improve the availability of price comparisons between supermarket own label ranges. Existing price comparison sites such as MySupermarket.com mainly offer comparisons on branded goods.
Comparisons sites are also unable to provide accurate price comparisons for Morrisons and retailers that do not have online grocery offers which means price data has to be compiled manually.
A greater level of transparency would also allow consumer and regulatory organisations to scrutinise misleading pricing strategies more effectively, he says, by offering real time monitoring of special offers, discounts and buy-one-get-one-free promotions. It would therefore help the Office of Fair Trading enforce the recently introduced voluntary code designed to ensure promotions are “fair and meaningful”.
In a statement Denham says: “Supermarkets have a huge advantage over shoppers. While the supermarkets can base their pricing and promotion policies on sophisticated computer analysis of how we shop, most consumers are left shopping around and trying to work out value for money in much the same way they did decades ago. My Bill will even things up a little, giving consumers more chance of really getting the best deal, without the need for expensive regulation.”
MySupermarket.com vice president of business development James Foord told Marketing Week: “We support this wholeheartedly, as it’s a huge part of what we are all about as a consumer site. Potentially it could bring full price transparency to the marketplace which is our mission, but it’s good to see support at governmental level. As for our own sector, competition can only be a good thing as ultimately this will benefit the consumer.”