It was red face rather than red nose day when Tesco had to place a cap on its “double the difference” price promotion. It offered vouchers for double the difference in price between anything bought at Tesco compared with the equivalent Asda price. Soon reports surfaced of tactical purchases and hundreds of pounds’ worth of vouchers changing hands. Changes had to be made, but could they retrospectively limit the damage? Stephen Groom reports.
Who: Tesco UK
When: March 2011
Law stated as at: April 2011
At the beginning of March 2011, Tesco launched a "Pricecheck" promotion with the promise:
"We'll check the price of your grocery shopping versus Asda, then email you with your results. We're confident you will find your shopping cheaper at Tesco, but if not, we'll refund double the difference."
Soon the Great British Public were on the case. Advice appeared on personal finance websites on how to maximise returns (which were in the form of Tesco vouchers). Alcohol, laundry products and pet food were apparently particularly beneficial. One punter reported:
"Recently I've been getting paid to take home bottles of Hardy's Crest Cab Sav Merlot, which is a reasonable £4.78 at ASDA and a ridiculous £10.98 at Tesco, meaning after their Double The Difference Voucher, they pay me £1.42 to take each bottle home. Needless to say I don't think I'll need to purchase anymore red for the next year or two, amongst other things."
Soon there were reports of hundreds of pounds being claimed, with the Tesco offer small print placing no cap on the amount that could be recovered.
Then the fun came to an end. Tesco changed the promotion terms and conditions so as to impose a limit on refund claims of £20 a shop and £100 a month overall. A Tesco spokesperson said:
"Fewer than one in 5,000 customers had been awarded vouchers over £20. We commend their ingenuity but this isn’t why we set up the guarantee. So we've introduced a £20 limit."
A spokesperson for Asda said:
"If you claim to be the cheapest, call me old-fashioned, but it helps to really be the cheapest."
Why this matters:
It is always easy to be wise after the event, but it is still perhaps surprising that these circumstances were not foreseen when the promotion conditions were drafted and suitable refund limits imposed from the start.
The change may have been made, but the original terms and conditions remain contractually binding and valid for all refund claims made in respect of purchases made before the change. Tesco will remain bound to honour all such "double the difference" refund claims in full, provided these are made in compliance with all the other original terms and conditions.