UK: 50% Off – New Guidance On Pricing Practices ‘Reduced' To A Set Of Common Sense Principles

Last Updated: 20 March 2017
Article by Nick Breen and Gregor J. Pryor

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) has produced a new pricing practice guide which moves towards a principle-based approach. The new guidance will take effect from April 2017 and covers a range of pricing practices including advertising discounts such as 'was/now' prices, additional charges, using the terms 'RRP' and 'free', and comparisons to competitor pricing.

The new guidance was introduced following the 2015 Competition and Markets Authority's investigation into misleading pricing practices by several of the UK's leading supermarkets and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upholding complaints made against Ryanair and regarding misleading pricing.

What's new?

The new guidance replaces the 2010 Pricing Practices Guide1 and provides a non-prescriptive set of guiding principles for training and internal compliance purposes to help businesses navigate through these laws.2

In terms of content changes, the '28-day' price-establishment rule (whereby, the most recent higher price should have been available for at least 28 days) has been abandoned in favour of businesses asking themselves a number of simple questions such as: "How recently was the higher price offered compared to when the price comparison is being made?"

Additionally, claims such as "up to 50% off" or "half-price sale" can only be used if they apply to a "significant proportion" of the products on offer.

The new guidance also requires that RRP claims are substantiated so as to ensure that any price saving advertised represents a genuine saving. Businesses contemplating making RRP claims should consider consulting the ASA guidance on this subject.

Pricing in the digital environment

Enticed by the ease of online shopping, consumers' focus has shifted towards the price as the basic differentiator. To avoid falling foul of the rules on unfair pricing, businesses need to consider:

  • whether any of the information available to the consumer (however given) is false
  • how information is presented
  • whether there is anything else that the consumer needs to know (but which may have been omitted or hidden, or be unclear or unintelligible) to make an informed decision.

The new guidance is clear that online businesses should be conscious of their customers' online journey. Any information that is likely to affect the consumer's decision should be prominent and close to the price, headline or main product-offering. E-commerce sites should be wary of requiring consumers to click through or scroll down in search of material information.3 Pre-ticked boxes aimed at procuring consumer consent to additional fees and charges are also prohibited.

In relation to subscription services which tie consumers into repeat payments, the consumer's financial commitments must be made clear at the outset. Where the initial product is offered for free or at a significant discount, any additional payment obligations and the duration of the contract must be clearly communicated.

E-commerce businesses should not create a false sense of urgency and scarcity by suggesting that a product is only available at a particular price or on particular terms for a limited amount of time where this is not true

Statements such as "20% off all online orders" or "everything 10% off" must not be used unless such claims apply to all of the products on offer. Use of the terms 'new' and 'introductory price' should also be considered carefully, as where the price of the product is not increased at the conclusion of the promotional period, such practice is likely to be considered unfair.

Price comparisons should also be carried out with caution; for example, they must not give the overall impression that all of the business's products are cheaper. Non-compliant comparisons also carry a risk that a competitor may accuse the business of discrediting or denigrating the competitor's trademark.

When things go wrong

Getting the pricing right is critical since failing to comply with applicable pricing laws can lead to civil and criminal liability, ASA complaints and adverse publicity, and ultimately damage the business. Every pricing practice will need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis; however, adherence to the guidance does not necessarily guard against all claims. Businesses should take the following simple steps to prepare themselves in case they need to fend off any potential challenges:

  • retain records of prices and any promotions, including the manner in which these have been communicated to consumers;
  • ensure terms and conditions are transparent and user-friendly; and
  • document competitor's pricing (where comparisons are made against a competitor) via website screenshots.

What's next?

The new guidance goes a long way in accommodating some of the more modern retail practices and embraces flexibility, which will benefit online businesses. If in doubt about a specific practice, CTSI's user-friendly checklist of dos and don'ts serves as a good starting point and should always be consulted first. This new high-level approach might, however, sacrifice some of the certainty that comes with more prescriptive rules. Nonetheless, businesses that put transparency at the heart of their service and take care to provide customers with all material information are more likely to be compliant.

Businesses have until April 2017 to adjust their practices to the new guidance.

  1. This was produced by the then Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).
  2. Businesses must continue to comply with all applicable pricing laws including the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, the Price Marking Order 2004, the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 and the Consumer Rights Act 2015, as well as the codes issued by the Committee of Advertising Practice.
  3. Some of this was already required under the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions