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Sainsbury’s fined 19,000 for overcharging at Lambeth stores

Following an undercover operation lasting several months, Lambeth Council's Trading Standards team has prosecuted Sainsbury's for overcharging customers on supposed special offers.

The Waterloo store pictured days before its opening in March 2003

The operation began when trading standards officer David Morris noticed that items offering special discounts such as 'buy one get the second half-price' and 'buy three, save 1' at various Sainsbury's Local stores weren't being given.

A month after notifying Sainsbury's the problem had still not been resolved. Mr Morris then spent several weeks visiting all six Sainsbury's Local stores in Lambeth, including the Waterloo Road store, purchasing various special offer items. Problems were found at every store, with overcharging occurring on at least 31 separate occasions.

On one occasion 10 out of 11 items purchased resulted in the officer being overcharged, adding around 25% to the final bill. For example a honeydew melon supposedly reduced in price from 1.95 at the checkout. On another occasion raspberries were marked as '1.49 or two for 2.50', but at the checkout 2.65 was charged for just one item. The strangest incident was when a checkout assistant asked Mr Morris to calculate the discounts, as she was "no good at maths".

On 2 June at Camberwell Green Magistrates Court Sainsbury's pleaded guilty to 10 offences under the Consumer Protection Act for giving misleading price indications. Sainsbury's were ordered to pay a total of 19,441 in fines and costs, to be paid within 14 days.

Mr Morris said: "I'm very pleased with the result. It took a long time to put the case together but hopefully it will stop problems like this in the future. It's good to see the court appreciates the serious nature of these offences and handed out appropriate penalties – and it's also a reminder to shoppers to check their receipts together with their change."

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