Tesco fined in strawberry mis-selling scandal

Tesco has been fined £300,000 by Birmingham Crown Court after admitting it mis-sold strawberries to the British public in a half-price deal.

The supermarket admitted four counts of engaging in an unfair commercial practise over strawberry prices in 2011.

The case concerns the Tesco store on Coventry Road, Sheldon, and was widened to Tesco stores nationally after a preliminary hearing after the Birmingham City Council argued residents shopping outside of the city would still be affected by the offer.

The court heard that, during various dates in summer 2011, Tesco sold 400g punnets marked as "half price". The punnets were sold at £1.99 with previous prices £2.99 and £3.99 crossed out.

Under pricing law, the length of sale at the new lower price should not be more than the length of time the product was available at the higher price. The half price offer ran for 14 weeks, while the original price ran for a much shorter length of time.

Later, Tesco created a further offer, selling the 400g punnets for £1.99 including a pot of cream. The offer did not mention the previous price. The strawberries were later put on sale without the cream with the indication they were again half price.

It was argued that both offers were presented in a way that misled or was likely to deceive the average consumer.

Head of trading standards for Birmingham City Council Sajeela Naseer said in a statement:

This is not only a victory for Birmingham customers it also has wider benefits for all consumers across the country.

It was the council’s case, confirmed by Tesco’s guilty pleas today, that this was a misleading offer which deceived the purchasers of strawberries over many weeks during the summer of 2011.

Food pricing, presentation and the depiction of promotional practices is a crucial issue for retailers, and in turn, consumers. We are happy to work with Trading Standards departments up and down the country to help protect customers.

Tesco has said "we apologise sincerely for this mistake".

We sell over 40,000 products in our stores, with thousands on promotion at any one time, but even one mistake is one too many. Since then, to make sure this doesn’t happen again we’ve given colleagues additional training and reminded them of their responsibilities to ensure we always adhere to the guidelines on pricing.