“Who can I complain to if a shop is overpricing goods?”

"Who can I complain to if a shop is overpricing goods?"

"Who can I complain to if a shop is overpricing goods?"

This question, in various guises, is one of the most common I’m asked. In a nutshell, the answer is no one. We do not (in general) have retail price rights. Stores can sell goods at any price they choose. Your right is not to buy it at that price.

I’m sure some reading this are thinking "everyone knows that". In its simplest form, you’re probably right. The key, however, is that many people ask me this question without realising that’s what it boils down to.

Here’s a recent tweet (edited slightly) as an example:

Got some headphones at Sainsbury’s for £18, then went into another of its stores where they were £10 more expensive. Would I have had a right to get them at the cheaper price?"

No. Sainsbury’s can legally sell goods in different stores at different prices if it chooses – though it may well have a policy of not doing this and it must ensure its advertising of such products is accurate.

In fact, if you think about it, I encourage shop haggling, where the net result is that the SAME store sells different people the same goods at different prices. Though again, of course you have no right for a retailer to drop the price just because you ask.

NB. The one exception to the above rule is if a store is deliberately pricing lower than it will sell the goods at to draw people in – that’s misadvertising and a criminal offence.

I was staggered to watch a weak documentary programme a couple of months ago where the main story was that supermarkets’ express or convenience stores are more expensive than their main superstores. No surprise, Sherlock!

I suspect a follow-up may ‘reveal’ that some stores sell goods at different prices online to instore. 

Check prices elsewhere before you buy

This is why the third line of my Money Mantras is: "Have you checked whether it is available cheaper elsewhere?" (Try the MegaShopBot tool for that.)    

If you do find it overexpensive, while you have no ‘rights’, you can have legitimate expectations. Feel free to tell the world (or tweet me) that you’ve found outrageously-priced goods. It may hit a store’s reputation, which can be as powerful as legal rights.

If you later discover you have overpaid, you have no rights to take an item back. Some stores may allow it, but on price at least, it’s "let the buyer beware".

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