Thursday 29 September 2016

Are supermarkets allowed to charge more by weight for larger packs than smaller ones?

Fergal O'Leary

Published 13/09/2015 | 02:30

When you buy goods from a retailer, you are protected by consumer legislation.
When you buy goods from a retailer, you are protected by consumer legislation.

I have noticed in my local supermarket that sometimes items which are in a larger pack are actually more expensive than smaller packs when you look at the cost per 100g. I always bought larger packs as I am buying for a family and thought they were better value. Are there no rules around pricing as this is very misleading for consumers? Sinead, Cobh, Co Cork

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Retailers must display prices, and there are rules governing how prices must be displayed. A customer has the right to clear and accurate information on the prices of goods and services so they can compare prices and make informed choices. Retailers are required to ensure that the prices displayed are accurate and not misleading. Put simply, the price displayed must be the same as the price charged at the till.

In addition, generally if a product is sold by weight or volume, the unit price must also be displayed.

However, the prices of goods sold in shops are not controlled by law. This allows for competition between retailers. Similarly charging different amounts for different sizes is not a breach of current law, so when you are shopping you should always check the unit price of what you are buying to work out the best value.

A unit price is the price of the product by weight or measure. For example, if the price of two litres of milk is €1.50, then the unit price is €0.75 cent a litre.

If you feel strongly about the pricing policy of a shop, you could complain to the manager. For information on pricing or how to make a complaint to a business, check out www.consumerhelp.ie.

I recently bought a pair of shoes in a well-known shop. The shoes were on sale and I paid cash for them. I wore the shoes to a wedding the following week and the heel snapped on one. When I contacted the store to return them, the manager was very pleasant but informed me that he required proof of purchase if he was to investigate my complaint any further. I don't remember getting a receipt from the store when I bought the goods but he is adamant they can do nothing for me. Can you tell me what my options are?

Leanne, Trim, Co Meath

When you buy goods from a retailer, you are protected by consumer legislation. The product should be of an acceptable standard. If you feel your rights have been affected and the product has become faulty, you are entitled to seek either a repair, replacement or refund.

However, under current consumer legislation, a retailer does not have to provide a receipt to the consumer. Where a receipt is not provided, credit card statements, debit card statements and cheque stubs are also acceptable as proof of purchase. However, as you have paid in cash, you may be limited in terms of how far you can push for a solution.

If the store manager is not willing to offer you a refund or repair, you could write to the head office outlining your complaint, and the steps you have taken to resolve it with the store - to see if head office can be of more help.

I have been hit hard with back-to-school expenses this year, and, for the first time, have had to use my credit card to help manage the costs. I am dreading my next bill. How can I tackle this debt quickly so I don't end up paying loads of interest?

Christine, Sligo Town

While credit cards are a convenient form of credit, they can be very expensive if you don't repay them in full every month. The typical interest on a credit card varies from 13pc to 23pc.

Most credit-card providers allow you to pay a minimum amount off your credit card bill each month This can be as low as 2.5pc of the amount owed.

While it is tempting to simply repay the minimum amount, by doing so you are being charged a high rate of interest on the outstanding balance, increasing the amount of time it will take you to clear the debt and effectively paying much more for the items you purchased with your credit card than they originally cost.

The most important thing to do if you find yourself in debt is not to ignore it as there are a number of things you can do to reduce your balance. Some credit card providers charge no interest on balance transfers for a period of time so it might be worth checking if you can switch to a card with a zero or lower rate of interest. If you choose this option, be sure to clear the balance before the low rate offer runs out - and try to avoid using the card as it will take longer to clear. If you cannot switch, consider getting a personal loan either from a bank or a credit union to pay off your balance - however, it is essential that you are able to manage the loan repayments if you take out a loan for this reason.

It is also important that you stop using your credit card because otherwise you are simply adding to the problem. Consider cancelling your credit card, and use alternative forms of payment, such as cash so that you aren't adding to the balance. If you need a credit card for essential purchases, then leave it in a secure place rather than bringing it out with you so you are not tempted to use it. You can compare the interest rates charged by the various credit card providers on www.consumerhelp.ie.

Email your questions to lmcbride@independent.ie or write to 'Your Questions, The Sunday Independent Business Section, 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1'.

While we will endeavour to place your questions with the most appropriate expert to answer your query, this column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice.

Director of communications and consumer help with the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission

Sunday Indo Business

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