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

- 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…

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