Coles accused of 'manipulative' price tag tactic: 'Should be illegal'

·4-min read

A furious Coles shopper has accused the supermarket giant of using a sneaky price-tag tactic to "mislead" bargain hunters.

The man, who is a regular purchaser of Robert Timms instant coffee, was frustrated when the cost of a 200-gram jar shot up to $12.50 in August, claiming he spent several years paying $8 for the household staple.

But his anger boiled over when he noticed the cost of the popular item dropped "slightly" to $10.70 while being marketed as a "Down Down" discount, despite the price being higher than it originally was.

Left: A photo of a
An angry shopper has accused Coles of being "dodgy" after noticing a surprising detail on a sales price tag. Source: Reddit/mr_pineapples44/Coles

'Manipulative dodgy pricing'

In a scathing Reddit post titled "Coles manipulative dodgy pricing", the man claimed he contacted both Coles and the ACCC about the "absolutely cretinous" act.

"So, after several years of it being $8, Coles ups the price of coffee by nearly 60 per cent overnight, leaves it there for a week, and then decreases it slightly and claims it is a 'Down Down' price. Absolutely cretinous," he wrote, alongside an image of the red and white sales tag.

"Have contacted both ACCC and Coles for comment. ACCC says it sounds like misleading pricing but to contact Coles first."

He then added the responses he claims to have received from both the supermarket and consumer regulator.

"Coles response: It was changed for two weeks, therefore they can claim it was $12.50.

"ACCC: Generally a month is required as a 'reasonable' period of sale, but some exceptions can apply. Looking in further."

Shopping baskets at a Coles supermarket
Coles customers said the price-tag tactic makes a mockery of the supermarket giant’s "Down Down" catchphrase. Source: AAP

In further edits to the post, the shopper explained that he was aware Woolworths employed similar practices and that he wasn't angry about the price hike but rather that Coles attempted to "hide" it as a discount.

"Definitely not trying to claim that Woolworths doesn't do exactly the same thing. This just happened to be the most recent and most egregious example I'd seen," he wrote.

"Not complaining about the price. I get it, prices rise. But trying to hide the massive price increase by claiming it as a discount is something that rubbed me the wrong way."

Cost of living crisis

The customer's complaint comes just two weeks after Coles claimed it would "help household budgets go further" by locking the price of 1,168 products while lowering the cost of an additional 500 items.

The disgruntled man's diatribe hit a nerve with fellow Coles customers also grappling with the cost-of-living crisis

"Should be illegal," one person commented.

Some pointed to the supermarket giant's catchy "Down Down" slogan, noting the price-tag tactic made a mockery of the popular jingle.

"Our prices are down and staying down - isn't really working out as a catchphrase for them anymore," a Reddit user wrote.

Many added they had noticed the same tactic being used on other products.

"They did this with some Palmolive body wash that we normally buy for $8. Price increased to $12 suddenly for a few weeks, and then dropped down to $10 with the price dropped bulldust," a shopper wrote.

Another commented: "There's a heap of 'DOWN DOWN' stickers with a previous price of August 2022. The one I took note of was Sakata, which went from $2.00 to $2.30, but a week of $2.75 in the middle so they could legally add the sticker."

Shoppers outside a Coles supermarket
The shopper's find comes after Coles announced it was "locking" the price of 1,168 products. Source: AAP

A former Coles worker chimed in to say the discount tactic wasn't an "isolated incident" for the retailer, while others said it's a "necessary evil" that we "have to put up with".

ACCC responds

In a statement to Yahoo News, a spokesperson for the ACCC declined to comment on the individual complaint but said businesses must not make "misleading representations" under Australian Consumer Law.

"Price savings representations may be misleading where the product was not sold at the 'was' price for a reasonable period right before the sale," the statement said.

Coles has been contacted for comment.

Coles has since dropped the price of the coffee product by 50 per cent online.

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