TESCO are being investigated by trading standards officials after an MP accused the supermarket giant of using "bait advertising" ploys to lure customers.
Consumer watchdogs began the probe after they were alerted by campaigning labour MP Rosie Cooper.
The MP for West Lancashire saw red when she visited a Tesco store in Liverpool, hoping to pick a 1lt bottle of Baileys for a bargain #8. To her annoyance she found the item was "Out of Stock" and when she quizzed staff the MP claims she was told the store in Liverpool had received hardly any stock at the bargain price.
She also complained that bottles of Jacobs Creek wine advertised at £3.00 was being sold for £5.99.
Miss Cooper tells how she suggested to Tesco staff that they should take-down display advertising boards proting the offers a the entrance to the store. But instead of heeding her suggestion she was advised refer the matter to head office the full £5.99 for the Australian wine. Now, Liverpool Trading Standards officers, along with the Advertising Standards Agency, are looking into a potential breach of the Code on Advertising Practice.
Miss Cooper said: "This is a classic example of big business exploiting loyal customers. They should not continue to advertise offers which are not available in the store. In fact, it would be good business practice to give customers attempting to purchase these items a promissory note that says when the goods are in stock they will be sold to the customer at the 'offer' price."
Incensed at the treatment she received at the store in Woolton, Liverpool, the MP reported the matter to the city's trading standards department and the Advertising Standards Agency. Miss Cooper added: "When I contacted Tesco's head office their customer services department told me 'All stores should get some stock, but not a lot, granted'. So I told them I was contacting Trading Standards and they still said that they would not act, which I find absolutely amazing."
"If these big stores are making these big promises of discounted goods then they should have the stock to back it up. At the very least they should offer a raincheck voucher when the offer goods are not available so they can be obtained when stock arrives. Otherwise they are luring customers on false pretenses with 'bait advertising' and that is just not acceptable."
"Tesco's need to realise they are not a law unto themselves and cannot do what they like and breach the regulations on advertising offers like this with impunity."
A Tesco spokesperson said: "We offer hundreds of promotions in store and online every single week. These offers are incredibly popular and products sold fast as credit crunch hit customers prepared for Christmas by taking advantage of great deals."
A spokesman for the Liverpool Trading Standards Office said: "We can confirm we have had a complaint but we cannot comment on any individual cases, or confirm which trader the complaint refers to. Bait advertising is completely illegal and if the trader is found to be in breach of the regulations then the trader could face a substantial fine or be at risk of prosecution. The Advertising Standards Agency also, would conduct their own investigations. They have the power to block particular traders from further advertising."
Click here for the "Coopers Commons" article detailing the matter further (taken from the Ormskirk Advertiser, 15th January 2009, p.14).