Supermarkets 'Using Dodgy Pricing Tactics'
Shoppers are being duped into thinking they are getting great offers from the major supermarkets when in fact many of the deals fail to deliver.
The discovery has been made by the consumer watchdog Which? after trawling through 700,000 store prices.
They found countless offers using "dodgy pricing tactics" which ended up more expensive than the original cost.
"We were surprised with how wide-spread this problem was... every supermarket, across a huge range of products," said executive director Richard Lloyd.
"These practises are completely unfair. People with busy lives haven't got time to work out with a calculator whether a special offer genuinely is special."
Four main tactics have been identified.
One involves products increasing in cost as a multi-buy deal starts. Asda doubled the price of a Muller Light yoghurt from 30p to 61p before putting on a 10 for £4 deal, making them more expensive than they started.
Another saw items on offer for much longer than at full price such as a Becks six-pack at Tesco which spent only 70 days at £6.79 but 190 days at around £5.
Shopper Rodney Bates in Ipswich has noticed the problem.
"They do play on people that don't have a lot of time to look. They play on you going in picking a lot of shopping up, dumping it in the trolley and when you get to the till you don't notice."
The supermarkets say they do not intend to mislead but sometimes mistakes are made as they try to offer customers the best deal.
In a statement, Tesco said: "We make every effort to ensure we act in accordance with government guidelines on price promotions."
And Asda added: "When we do get it wrong we put our hands up to say sorry and put things right as quickly as possible."
The answer, says Which?, is for guidelines to be tightened.
"There are already rules that exist to protect the consumer, for example how special offers should be priced and presented on the shelves, rules that supermarkets are simply not complying with enough," said Richard Lloyd.
"That's why if they don't clean their act up the government needs to bring in tougher rules and properly enforce them."
Many shoppers are already on the lookout for dodgy offers.
"If you are putting things in your trolley that are buy-one-get-one-free all the time you might think you are getting a good deal but you are not," said a mother shopping in Felixstowe.
There are certainly great bargains to be had. The advice is to take a closer look to make sure the deal does what it says on the tin.