Tesco queried for alleged “bait advertising”

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 8th January 2009

Tesco, the UK’s largest supermarket operator, is under investigation for allegedly misleading consumers regarding a cut-price alcohol deal. It has been suggested that the retailer ran a sale while failing to ensure it had enough stock to meet demand – which has been against the law in the UK since May last year.

The company will face two separate investigations over the matter – one by tradings standards officers and another from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). Trading standards officers will assess whether a cut-price sale of a bottle of Bailey’s at £8 was made in the knowledge that they would have insufficient stock to meet demand. The tactic, known as “bait advertising”, has been used in the past to lure customers into the store in the hope that they will purchase other items when they discover the item on sale is not available.

The ASA, meanwhile, will analyse whether the advertising broke any rules and query a reported refusal to take down front-of-store banners at outlets where stock had run out.

The allegations have been made by a Member of Parliament, who reported that she had visited three Tesco stores – all of which were out of stock.”When I contacted Tesco’s head office their customer services department told me ‘all stores should get some stock, but not a lot, granted’,” Labour MP said, according to The Independent. “So I told them I was contacting trading standards and they still said they would not act which I find absolutely amazing.”

Tesco, which faced two similar queries by the ASA last year – which were dismissed, has disputed the allegations. A spokesman advised that their response to the MP was “wrong”, and said that stock shortages in some stores were merely caused by demand exceeding expectations. “There was plenty of stock ordered to ensure enough of these products for all customers across the country and we apologise that she was not given an adequate explanation,” the spokesman said.”Additional supplies were ordered in as quickly as possible.”