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Updated : 25/11/2016

Unfair pricing

Throughout the EU, sellers must indicate product prices clearly enough for you to easily compare similar products and make informed choices – no matter how they're packaged or how many units are sold together.

Companies are legally obliged to be absolutely clear about the price you'll have to pay when they advertise or sell something to you.

Complete price information

The price quoted in an offer must include all taxes and delivery charges. If there might be extra costs that can't be calculated in advance, you must also be told that upfront.

Sample story

Steven, from Scotland, found some very cheap flights to Spain on an airline website. However, after he completed the online booking, the final price had doubled – including various surcharges that had not been mentioned at any stage of the booking process.

Steven contacted the customer service department and was told the initial price was merely indicative. However, a call to the Scottish consumer centre confirmed that, although airlines are indeed entitled to charge extra for things like luggage or in-flight meals, these should be indicated from the start (along with all other additional charges, taxes, etc). Extra costs which are not optional, such as administrative or payment fees, should always be included in the initial price.

Following intervention by the consumer centre, the airline now indicates all price supplements in a clear, unambiguous way at the start of the booking process.

When something is advertised as "free", you cannot be obliged to pay anything other than the cost of:

  • responding to the advert
  • collecting the item or having it delivered

Easy comparison – price per unit

You should also be able to compare prices between brands and between package sizes – to see, for example, what saving you'd make buying a large-size box of breakfast cereal instead of a small box.

To help you do this, all products must be marked not only with the selling price, but also the price per unit – for example, the price per kilo or per litre. This information must be unambiguous, clearly legible, and easily identifiable.

This rule also applies to adverts that mention a selling price.

Sample story

Nadine lives in Belgium close to the German border with her 5 month old daughter. To try and save money, she started to compare the price of nappies in different shops both in Belgium and across the border in Germany.

She found a German seller offering packs of the same nappies she buys in Belgium for the same price she normally pays. Looking more closely at the unit price, however, Nadine realised that the German packs contained 140 nappies, whereas the packs in Belgium had only 90, making them much more expensive. She switched straight away to buying all her nappies from the German shop.

Remember to check the unit price before making your purchase.

Exceptions

The following are examples of goods to which the unit pricing rules might not apply – because indicating a unit price might cause confusion, or because of the particular nature or purpose of the goods:

  • products sold in vending machines
  • goods sold at auction
  • artworks and antiques

For more information, see also: Enforcement and application of the Unfair Commercial Practices directive

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