Supermarket price 'war' reaches new level of tedium

Sainsbury's wants to take a decision by the Advertising Standards Authority to judicial review because... oh, MT doesn't have the energy any more.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 30 Oct 2013

- Read MT's 'Top 10 bitter corporate rivalries'

The price ‘war’ (aka toddler-like in-fighting) between supermarkets continues apace: Sainsbury’s has glove-slapped the Advertising Standards Authority and demanded satisfaction after the ASA rejected its complaint about Tesco’s Price Promise campaign. Sigh.

It wasn’t just the ASA that rejected the complaint: an independent review said exactly the same thing. So now Sainsbury’s says it wants to take it to judicial review – an actual court with actual judges in it – as a ‘point of principle’ because, apparently, comparing Tesco’s own-brand products with Sainsbury’s is ‘misleading’.

The problem is this: when customers shop at Tesco, the supermarket compares the prices of everything they’ve bought, branded and own-brand products alike, and then prints out a voucher for the amount they would have saved, had they shopped at its rival.

Sainsbury’s (which only compares branded products) argues that’s unfair, because many of its own-brand products are ethically sourced, which it reckons is a deciding factor when customers choose which supermarket to shop at.

Mike Coupe, commercial director of Sainsbury’s, raged: ‘It’s time to take a stand on behalf of the huge majority of customers who want to make fair comparisons when they shop.

‘Tesco says that whether, for example, a product is Fairtrade or Marine Stewardship Council-certified is just a ‘minor part’ of a customer’s considerations, especially for value products. We disagree.’

Of course, if most customers are anything like MT, their savings are so negligible that it’s more cost-effective to save the vouchers as handily-sized wrappers to spit chewing gum into. But that’s probably not the point…

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime


Get your essential reading delivered. Subscribe to Management Today