25th March 2024

Scottish consumers hit by unfair pricing

An investigation has revealed that consumers in Scotland are losing out to short measures and unfair pricing practices.

By JTS Staff
Journal of Trading Standards' in-house team
Consumers should always get what they pay for, and fair measurement is a centuries old principle at the heart of fair trade in goods

Consumers across Scotland are losing millions of pounds to unfair pricing practices and short-weight measures, according to SCOTSS (the Society of Chief Officers of Trading Standards in Scotland).

Trading Standards teams from 18 local authorities in Scotland checked compliance with the Price Marking Order 2004 and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 among small to medium-sized convenience stores.

A total of 417 retailers were visited at the end of 2023, and revealed ‘a continuing lack of understanding of pricing regulations among managers and owners, with non-compliances often not recognised as criminal offences’. SCOTSS said that the results showed no improvement since a similar investigation in 2022.

Of the 20,579 products examined, 4,614 (22%) lacked price indications, while in 34% of cases unit prices were found to be incorrect. In 67% of those cases, the products had no unit price at all. At the point of sale 5,997 products were checked, with 11.6% being incorrectly charged — 79% of these being to the detriment of the consumer.

Officers involved in the project took action including issuing advisory letters and verbal warnings, and carrying out revisits in an effort to increase knowledge and compliance.

Short measures
Trading Standards Officers throughout the West of Scotland also collaborated on a project aimed at identifying short weight products, following a similar 2022 project which found that 71 out of 2,496 (3%) packs checked were short weight.

Weight checks were carried out on packaged goods at 146 retail outlets, with short weight products identified during 47 of these visits. A total of 1,479 different product lines were checked, with 70 (5%) found to contain short weight packs. A total of 10,308 individual packs were checked within these product lines and 424 (4%) of these were found to be short weight, with deficiencies as high as 40%, leading to detriment of as much as £2 per pack.

Alexandra Connell, Chair of SCOTSS, 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 a continuing cost of living crisis, it is 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.

“Consumers should always get what they pay for, and fair measurement is a centuries old principle at the heart of fair trade in goods and at the heart of our profession, making sure that consumers get what they pay for and that businesses are weighing and measuring goods accurately. As with the pricing issues, and the key importance of weights and measures to the overall market, metrological systems must be working properly.”

CTSI Chief Executive, John Herriman, said:  “The vitally important work being carried out by Scottish Trading Standards in relation to pricing and metrological issues could not be more timely. With the cost of living crisis still having such a substantial impact on the decisions consumers make around spending, price transparency and trust in measurement is crucial to ensure that consumers know that they’re spending their money wisely.”

Sam Ghibaldan, Chief Executive of Consumer Scotland, the statutory body for consumers in Scotland, said: “This is an important project on the pricing and weight of goods carried out by Scottish local authority Trading Standards.

“It is essential consumers have accurate information about the goods they are buying, particularly during a cost of living crisis when consumers are facing increased hardship.”

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