A recent DTI funded survey revealed that copious labelling regulations still fail to prevent consumers being misled about how much product they are buying.
Who: Manchester School of Management
When: December 2000
Forget lookalikes, the greatest source of packaging confusion is packs that mislead as to the amount of product they contain, concluded a recent, DTI-funded study by the Manchester School of Management (MSM).
The results from a survey of 1000 shoppers across supermarkets in London, Cardiff, Glasgow and Manchester indicated that 47% ignored quantity indications on packs and relied on physical size instead. 45% then got it wrong when asked, without seeing the on-pack quantity statement,whether three different shaped packs contained the same amount of product. Even when three different shaped wine bottles each stated they contained 75cl, 28% still thought they contained different quantities. Differing fill levels also foxed 80% of respondents into believing 375 gram own label cereal packets contained the same as 500 gram branded equivalents. Downsizing by stealth was another source of bewilderment, with some manufacturers reducing the contents of soup (435g to 405g) and crisp packs (28g to 27g to 25g) over periods of time without reducing the price.
Why this matters:
German law requires that fill levels must be a certain percentage of the pack, and the MSM report suggests that regulations of this ilk rather than current laws requiring the number of grams of product to be marked would be more effective to combat consumer confusion. Controls over double-skinned containers, diagrams on the outside of packs showing the actual product size and greater prominence for disclaimers would also help, the report recommends, as well as clearer legal definitions of what is "deceptive." But with packaging already heavily red taped, would yet more rules yield real benefit for consumers who, in store, will probably continue to buy on the first, quick visual impression regardless?