Consumers in Scotland are being left out of pocket to the tune of millions of pounds by retailers who fail to obey pricing rules, an investigation by Scottish local authority Trading Standards services has found.
Officers from 22 Scottish local councils encountered a range of issues when they visited supermarkets, convenience stores and small retailers across the country. They found items that were wrongly priced, were not priced at all, or failed to provide unit pricing that helps customers to compare products.
The retail pricing project, which was coordinated by the Society of Chief Officers of Trading Standards in Scotland (SCOTSS), was set up to examine pricing practices at a time when consumer finances are under severe pressure due to the cost-of-living crisis.
During 118 visits to supermarket chains and 228 visits to small or medium-sized stores, officers checked 30,000 products for price marking and more than 7,000 for unit pricing. A further 9,000 products were tested ‘at the till’ for misleading pricing.
The investigation found that in national chains, 4% of goods were not priced at all and 6.5% of products displayed incorrect unit pricing. An additional 3.7% of products were wrongly charged at the checkout, with 71% of these being to the detriment of the consumer.
For medium and smaller stores the situation was worse, with more than 14% not being priced properly, and unit pricing information being wrong or missing from 8.6% of items. Almost 10% of products were incorrectly charged at the checkout, 70% being to the detriment of the consumer.
SCOTSS Chair, David MacKenzie, said: “Transparency in pricing is at the heart of fair trade in goods and is a core issue for Trading Standards teams across Scotland, making sure that consumers pay the correct price for their purchases and that businesses are diligent in presenting goods for sale accurately and legally.
“With the current cost-of-living crisis, it is even more important that the processes and systems that should be in place are working properly and that consumers pay the correct amount for their shopping. My advice to shoppers is always check prices carefully when in store and make sure you have been properly charged at the till.
“SCOTSS works very closely with colleagues in local council Trading Standards across Scotland, and this is an excellent example of local authority officers working together to ensure the market is working properly and fairly. Officers are there not only to protect consumers but also to help and support businesses.”
CTSI Chief Executive, John Herriman, said: “The vitally important work being carried out by Scottish Trading Standards in relation to pricing issues could not be more timely. With the current cost-of-living crisis having such a substantial impact on the decisions consumers make around spending, price transparency is crucial to ensure that consumers know that they’re spending their money wisely.”