Tesco fined €600 for overcharging

 

THE STATE’S largest retailer Tesco has been found guilty of misleading shoppers on eight separate occasions by charging more for goods at the tills than the price displayed on shelves.

The retailing giant was fined €600 at Dublin District Court for breaches of the Consumer Protection Act 2007 after an action was taken by the National Consumer Agency. Costs of €1,500 as well as expenses of €1,596 were awarded to the agency but it is the embarrassment of the conviction rather than the financial penalties which are likely to weigh most on the minds of the retailer’s most senior executives.

The misleading prices were uncovered by agency inspectors after they visited stores in Talbot Street and Phibsboro, Dublin; Coonagh Cross, Limerick; Ennis, Co Clare; Maynooth and Clane, Co Kildare; Wexford town; Carrick- on-Shannon, Co Leitrim, and Greystones, Co Wicklow.

The agency brought its prosecution for the misleading practice of charging higher prices for a range of products than were displayed in store as well as for one alleged offence of failing to display the price of a product. The retailer was convicted on one charge with the other eight charges being taken into consideration.

“This conviction prosecuted by the National Consumer Agency should remind all retailers of the importance of meeting their obligations under consumer protection law,” the agency’s chief executive Ann Fitzgerald said.

She said the “requirement on traders to ensure that products are accurately priced has never been more important than in the current economic environment and enables hard-pressed consumers to have advance knowledge of the price being charged”.

The consumer agency has frequently come in for criticism for being a toothless organisation but one area where it has wide-ranging powers under the Consumer Protection Act is in connection with pricing. There is a range of remedies at its disposal to tackle misleading practices and breaches of legislation.

Ms Fitzgerald indicated the majority of breaches of price display requirements and misleading pricing were dealt with by the agency issuing fixed payment notices (on-the-spot fines) or compliance notices on traders. So far this year, 34 fixed payment notices and 14 compliance notices were imposed on traders across a variety of retail sectors, she said.

In a statement, Tesco said it was policy “to have clear prices in place at all times”. It said it had 2.7 million price labels up every day across all its stores and pointed out that it had been convicted “for a mistake in one of these”.

“This was as a result of human error during a time of major change in our stores. It should not have happened and we greatly regret it. Improvements have been made to our processes as a result.”