By law, a retailer is entitled to decide the price he wants to charge for his goods. The price on display is simply what the law calls an 'invitation to treat'. In the same way that you don't have to buy goods from anyone, a retailer is under no obligation to sell you anything
You cannot insist that a shop sells you anything at a marked price, even if they have made a mistake.
The law does not allow prices to be fixed and, contrary to common belief, goods are not subject to price controls.
Pricing Guidance Guide
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) have issued a Pricing Practice Guide, which explains the main requirements of the Price Marking Order 2004 and gives brief details of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
Where goods are offered for retail sale, the selling price and, where appropriate, the unit price (e.g. 65p per 100 grammes) must be given to consumers in writing (including prices in catalogues, shops and online).
How should price indications be given?
When selling to the general public, all pricing information must be clearly legible, unambiguous, easily identifiable and inclusive of VAT and any additional taxes.
Pricing information must be given close to the product; or with distance contracts (e.g. online or mail order sales) and advertisements, close to a picture or written description of the product. In relation to sales by telephone, price indications must be clearly audible and linked to the subject of the transaction.
Prices can be shown:
- on goods themselves;
- on a ticket or notice near to the goods; or
- grouped together with other prices on a list or catalogue(s) in close proximity to the goods. If counter catalogues are used, there should be sufficient copies for consumers to refer to.
Pricing information must be available, i.e. clearly visible, to consumers without them having to ask for assistance in order to see it.
Legibility refers to a consumer with normal sight. Traders must also comply with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and take account of the special needs of the elderly and disabled groups. Traders are encouraged to take account of the Royal National Institute for the Blind's Clear Print Guidelines, for further information visit the The Royal National Institute of Blind People.
Goods that are kept out of sight of the consumer are exempt from price marking until an indication is given that they are for sale.
What about goods in shop windows?
Items displayed for sale in a shop window should display pricing information as per the above requirements. Exceptions to this are jewellery, precious metal or watches - where the individual selling price is more than £3,000 - which need not bear pricing information in close proximity to the item, i.e. in the window. The pricing information must still, however, be given elsewhere, e.g. by means of a price list in store.
Window displays, which do not contain products that are removed and sold to consumers, may be regarded as being purely promotional, and they will fall within the definition of 'advertisement' and be exempt. Traders are advised to contact their local trading standards service for guidance on this matter.
Can price indications be in a foreign currency?
If a trader indicates that he is willing to accept foreign currency for the purchase of a product, in addition to the required price indications in sterling he must also:
- give the price in the foreign currency together with any commission to be charged;
- clearly give the conversion rate together with the commission to be charged; and
- indicate that these do not apply to transactions via a payment card for a non-sterling account.
What about VAT and other charges?
All price indications that can be seen by consumers must include VAT and any other compulsory charges or taxes. Postage, packing or delivery charges may be shown separately as long as they are unambiguous, easily identifiable and clearly legible.
If the rate or application of VAT or any other tax changes:
- General notices in store may be used for up to 14 days after the change takes effect, indicating that prices will be adjusted at the till to reflect the change in tax.
- Catalogues and sales literature may continue to be distributed providing:
- a label is attached indicating prices will be adjusted to reflect the change;
- there is sufficient information to allow adjusted prices to be established; or
- a supplement accompanies the catalogue/sales literature, which enables consumers to establish the selling price.
What are the consequences of non-compliance?
Failure to comply with the Price Marking Order 2004 and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 is a criminal offence.
What are RRP and MRRP?
The recommended retail price (RRP) and manufacturer's recommended retail price (MRRP) are suggested prices or price guidelines. Retailers can undercut these prices if they wish, so you should shop around for a bargain.
It is illegal for shops to sell things at more than their advertised price. Our advice is that the business should have a checking system to prevent pricing errors and ensure that any identified are quickly corrected. As long as shops clearly show the price of goods, they are under no obligation to price each item individually.
If you think a shop is deliberately trying to mislead you, or are unhappy at the way a shop advertises its prices, you should contact us using the details below.
In some cases, special pricing rules must be observed.
Restaurants, pubs, and cafes which serve food have to display a price-list and tell you whether there is a service charge, and pubs have to list the price of various drinks.
Petrol stations must show the unit price of petrol at the pump.
All retailers must price their goods to include VAT. This rule does not apply to business sales or the price of services, although if services are sold to consumers and the price is quoted exclusive of VAT, it must be made clear that VAT will be added.
It is also against the law for a shop to pretend that goods have been reduced from a higher price to a lower one.
If you order goods, and later the shop says the price has gone up, you should only have to pay the price you saw when you ordered, unless you were told there might be an increase. To be certain, ensure you get the price in writing.