Sainsbury’s takes Tesco Price Promise to Court

Sainsburys basketUK retailer Sainsbury’s is to take the Advertising Standards Authority’s adjudication over competitor Tesco’s Price Promise to Judicial Review as it fights for customers’ rights to make shopping decisions based on all relevant factors including ethics, provenance and price.

The news comes as fresh research confirms that customers really do want price comparisons to be made on a fair and transparent basis. In a survey conducted independently for Sainsbury’s among customers of all major supermarkets, 86% of those expressing an opinion said they thought supermarket price comparisons should clearly state whether they take ethical production standards into consideration when matching prices.

The same survey showed that 84% of customers say how and where food is produced are important factors in their buying decisions.

The Judicial Review is a reaction to the findings of the ASA’s Independent Reviewer, Sir Hayden Philips, who said in his recent review of the case that while Sainsbury’s had made a “persuasive case” that customers increasingly place value on provenance and other ethical issues, the ASA had in his view followed the correct process.

Sainsbury’s Commercial Director Mike Coupe said: “It’s time to take a stand on behalf of the huge majority or customers who want to be able to make fair comparisons when they shop. Tesco says that whether, for example, a product is Fairtrade or MSC certified is just a ‘minor part’ of a customer’s considerations – especially for value products.

“More than ever, customers want to be able to let their values guide them and in price-matching its products with ours Tesco is, when it sees fit, choosing to ignore factors such as ethical or provenance certification or even country of origin. We think that’s wrong and we’re pretty sure our customers do too.”

Sainsbury’s originally challenged Tesco in the ASA over the Price Promise scheme, in which Tesco matches products such as its Everyday Value Tea, which is not Fairtrade, with Sainsbury’s basics tea, which is.

Other examples include Sainsbuy’s basics water, which comes from a spring in Yorkshire, filtered through mineral-rich Greenmoor rock but which Tesco compares with its Everyday Value water, which starts at the mains supply, just like the water in your tap.

That challenge was not upheld by the ASA or by the ASA’s Independent reviewer. In the Judicial Review, Sainsbury’s will seek to have the ASA Council reconsider its original decision on the grounds that the test it applies does not take into consideration customers’ desire to make fair comparisons based on all relevant product properties.

Sainsbury’s will also question Tesco’s policy of including only the product characteristics it sees fit to include in Price Match – factors that vary from line to line depending on what seems to suit Tesco best.

The following table shows the results of a survey conducted for Sainsbury’s by HPI Research in August 2013. The research polled 993 customers of all major supermarkets. Download the full breakdown of results.

Percent, rounded

Total agreeing

Total disagreeing

Neither disagree
nor agree

Supermarket price comparisons should clearly state whether they take ethical production standards into consideration when matching prices 86 14 31
Supermarket price comparisons should clearly state whether they take country of origin into consideration when matching prices 83 17 32
I care about the welfare standards of the animals on the farms which produce my food 89 11 18
I care about the working conditions of those who produce my food 88 13 20
I prefer to buy British food when I can 87 13 21
Where and how my food is produced are important factors to me in my buying decisions 84 16 24

SOURCE: Sainsbury

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Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.