YesYou’ve put your purchases in the cart, gone to checkout, and handed in your payment – so it might be a little surprising if the cost of your groceries goes up later. This is exactly what can happen when you shop online at some of the major grocery chains. You may not have realized it, but in some supermarkets the prices displayed online when your trolley comes out are “indicative prices” that cannot be relied upon.
At a time when the UK is experiencing record levels of food price inflation, not knowing how much you’re actually going to have to pay for groceries before you’ve agreed to buy them can be a worrying prospect.
A Sainsbury’s customer who uses a wheelchair and shops online recently wrote on Twitter that the ‘sneaky rising’ prices at the point of delivery appear ‘discriminatory’. “I’m disabled I can’t do a full weekly shop in store,” she tweeted. “When I check online, for a fixed price, I expect that’s what I’m actually paying for, not them literally going up overnight.”
His case highlights a detail in Sainsbury’s terms and conditions that allows him to change prices before delivery. This is something its customers, and those of some other retailers, need to be aware of. “When shopping online at a supermarket, customers are often given an estimate of the price of fresh produce – such as fruit and vegetables – and then charged for the price of the item when it is weighed in-store. the same day,” says Adam French, a consumer rights expert. which?.
He points out that if items cost significantly more than expected when shopping online or if you receive unsuitable substitutions, you can choose to return them at the door.
“It is essential that supermarkets are upfront about their terms and conditions and whether prices or special offers may change on the day of delivery,” he adds.
Last month Morrisons began applying a 5% surcharge to online orders, explaining to customers that this is a ‘payment deposit’ to ‘authorize any changes to delivery or collection which may change your order total”. This is added to your card after the payment price has been calculated and is not included in the total displayed to you.
What supermarkets charge
Contacted by Guardian Money, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose all said they only show indicative prices online.
According to supermarkets, it is only after “bulk” items, usually fresh food, have been picked, weighed and delivered that the “final amount” of an online customer’s basket can be accurately calculated. .
However, the variation in the final amount you pay may also reflect changes in the prices of the goods you purchase that have occurred between the day of order and the day of delivery.
Prices may also be affected by promotions, which are valid at time of order but expire before delivery date, or substitutions of unavailable items, depending on supermarket policy.
Food poverty activist Jack Monroe said on social media that changing prices online “feels obscene” to her: “They [supermarkets] should respect the price at the time of ordering – surely the price is a determining factor if you order something or not? ” she wrote.
Tesco states on its website that its prices are “guide prices only” and that the actual prices you pay will be those charged in store at the time your order is picked up for delivery. As a result, prices may vary “marginally” between payment and delivery, a spokesperson said.
Sainsbury’s makes a similar statement about displaying indicative prices only online in its terms and conditions, describing the prices you see in ‘my basket’ as ‘estimates only’.
Both supermarkets told Guardian Money the price online shoppers pay is the same they would pay if they were buying in-store on the day of delivery. Sainsbury’s added that because prices are regularly revised, “customers may also end up paying less”.
Waitrose also states online in its terms and conditions that “prices quoted are always estimated…you will always be charged the in-store price on the day of delivery or collection”. However, the supermarket told us that promotional price changes are “usually updated” in its online system in advance, and the website will use the date of your delivery to show you the “most accurate prices”. .
This means that if you choose a delivery slot at Waitrose before you start filling your trolley, you may find that you are presented with more ‘accurate’ prices and the correct ‘special offers’ for the items you select than if you choose a delivery window. later, after filling your cart.
In any case, the supermarket will try to anticipate and take into account promotional price changes which have not yet occurred in store – but will on the date of your delivery – before your departure.
Ocado, Morrisons and Asda use guide prices online, but only for catch-weight products – for example fresh meat or vegetables if you’ve chosen how many you want. So, if the product you receive in your delivery has a heavier than average weight, you may be charged more than the indicative price indicated online at the time of your order. Likewise, if the product you receive weighs less than average, you will be charged less.
In March Morrisons introduced a temporary hold charge of 5%, which is levied the day before delivery, while the supermarket waits to calculate the final total you have to pay for these catch weight products, plus any additional charges for substitutions. It will eventually free up any money you don’t spend.
The total price you see at the end of the checkout process only reflects the prices of the products you purchase and does not include the 5% temporary fee, although a spokesperson says customers are notified of this at the end of the checkout process. ‘advance.
Morrisons says: “Once you cannot change your order the day before your order is due, we will attempt to authorize your bank for that amount. This means your bank will hold the money and you cannot spend it. We’ll calculate the final total after delivery or collection and only charge you that amount.”
With the exception of bulk products and substitutions which cost more than the original product you ordered, the price you pay at Morrisons is what you see on the website when you add it to your basket and proceed to checkout. “If prices change between payment and delivery, the customer is not charged a price increase – they pay the price of the item at checkout,” the spokesperson said.
Asda said that, with the exception of bulk items which are priced based on weight, “we do not change our prices once an order has been placed. [and] we do not apply any withholding charges of any kind. We do this because we know that many of our customers budget very carefully and it would be frustrating for prices to change once an order has already been placed.
An Ocado spokesperson says it also doesn’t charge a hold fee and, other than bulk items, “what you see in your basket is what you pay for”.
All supermarkets contacted by Guardian Money say customers receive their receipt with final prices before their orders arrive and items can always be returned to the delivery driver for a refund.