Asda opts out of price pact

Asda has refused to sign up to a protocol adopted by other major supermarkets which could restrict controversial half-price deals on wine.

The agreement between the eight multiples and the Office of Fair Trading is aimed at making food and drink price promotions more transparent – and includes a commitment not to promote goods at a discounted price for longer than they have been on sale at the quoted full-price.

The deal has implications for half-price deals on supermarket wines, which many critics say are sold at artificially inflated prices for a short period before being dropped to a promotional price which more accurately reflects the quality of the liquid in the bottle.

Some supermarket-exclusive brands are on promotion for up to 40 weeks of the year.

The agreement has been signed by Aldi, The Co-operative Group, Lidl, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose – but Asda declined to join in.

Asda said it was “taking the time to consider [the] proposals in detail”.

It added in a statement: “While this is meant to discourage high/low pricing promotions, our concern is that it could actually encourage [them].

“We’re not sure that best helps consumers in these challenging times.”

The OFT launched an investigation into the supermarket sector over concerns that shoppers were confused about the way prices were displayed, advertised or promoted.

It said it had found no evidence that retailers were breaking the law but that there was “inconsistency in the way the law was being interpreted and applied”.

Chief executive Clive Maxwell said: “Our principles, taken together with previous guidance, provides supermar- kets with a clear benchmark for how they should be operating so that their food and drink promotions reflect the spirit as well as the letter of the law.”

Richard Lloyd, executive director of consumers’ organisation Which?, said he wanted to see misleading promo- tions scrapped and “clear, consistent unit pricing with real bargains that are easy to spot at a glance”.

He added: “Regulators should be prepared to take enforcement action against traders found breaking the rules.”

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