AA Legal Documents
Law guide

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Contents

Overview

Generally, UK retailers are free to set their own prices and price controls do not exist. In a competitive retail market, if a trader sets his prices too high, consumers will purchase the products they want from a more reasonably priced retailer.

The law requires traders to show the full selling price, including VAT, of all products they offer for sale to consumers. They must also show a unit price for products sold from bulk such as fresh fruit and vegetables (which is a price per kilogram, litre etc.) and certain products marked with an indication of quantity or pre-packed in a constant quantity. For example, a bag of ten oranges costing £5.00 might display the unit price as 50p per orange. These price indications must be unambiguous, easily identifiable and clearly legible and be inclusive of VAT and any other taxes.

Misleading prices

It is a criminal offence for traders to give a misleading price indication about goods or services. That applies in whatever way the price indication is given, whether written in a notice or leaflet or given verbally. For example, you may see a shelf edge price ticket showing £5 for the item, and then you are charged £5.10 at the checkout. Another misleading price indication may be a price indicated on a leaflet, but you are charged at a higher price in the store.

You can't insist on buying a product for the displayed price if a trader prices a product with the wrong price in error (for example, "28 inch widescreen television for £39.90" instead of £399), unless the transaction has already been completed. The trader must nevertheless take immediate steps to rectify the mistake.

If you order goods for an agreed price, the seller cannot increase the price when the goods are delivered, unless you have agreed in advance that the price may change. If there is a significant increase in the price, you may be able to argue that this is an unfair term and you are not bound by it. This will not apply if you were given the right to cancel should the final price be too high.

What to watch out for

  • Being charged a higher price for the product at the checkout than is shown elsewhere within the shop.
  • Free offers should mean free offers. Traders are not allowed to charge a higher price, or impose additional charges on you if you want to take advantage of the offer as compared to someone who does not.
  • 'Buy one get one free' offers - make sure that you don't get charged for the second product.
  • Holiday and travel prices - make sure that you are aware of the total cost of the holiday and that the companies do not impose hidden charges.
  • Restaurants and service charges - always check your bill before paying. Any minimum charges and service charges must be indicated as prominently as the prices of the food and drink.
  • If the original packaging of a product displays a discount or total price (for example, '10p off' or 'Now only £8.99'), this discount or price should be passed on to you when you purchase the product.
  • Artificial discounts intended to convince you that you're getting a good deal. The ASA has upheld complaints where a manufacturer advertised their product at half price but didn't establish the original list price and couldn't provide evidence of the original list price when asked to do so.