Getting the price right: the new price marking order

From 18 March 2000, new regulations implementing the EU Price Indications Directive (98/6/EC) will add another nail in the coffin of imperial measurement.  The main effects will be felt in shops, but advertisers, Internet traders and mail order companies also need to get up to date.

The Price Marking Order 1991 will be replaced by the Price Marking Order 1999.  Specific rules about “ancillary goods and services” and number plates, for example, will no longer apply.  General rules on misleading price indications under the Consumer Protection Act 1987 will, however, continue to apply.   The basic principles are as follows:

  • “Selling prices” (the price for a unit or given quantity of a product) must be given, except for goods sold loose from bulk (eg fruit and vegetables).
  • “Unit prices” (the price per kilo etc) must be given for goods sold loose from bulk and pre-packaged products covered by existing Weights and Measures legislation.  (This includes most food and drink, e-marked packages and a host of other products such as detergents, cosmetics, and envelopes.)
  • Unit prices must be given in specified standard metric units (except for goods sold by number, where prices must be given for one individual item).

The rules only cover sales of products to consumers.  They do not apply to products supplied in the course of the provision of a service (eg food and drink consumed in restaurants).

The good news is that selling prices do not need to be given in “advertisements”, and unit prices only need to be given in advertisements (other than radio, TV and cinema commercials) if the selling price is given.

“Advertisements”, however, do not include advertisements inviting consumers to conclude a distance contract as opposed to merely seeking to encourage them to visit a retail outlet.  The new rules will therefore apply to e-commerce sites and to mail order advertisements.  They will also apply to catalogues and price lists.

Prices must be “unambiguous, easily identifiable and clearly legible”, as must any separate indication of postage, package or delivery charges.  VAT and all other taxes must be included.  Consumers must not have to ask for assistance in order to see prices, so e-commerce sites will have to be easily (and reliably) navigable if fines of up to £5,000 are to be avoided.

This bulletin gives only a rough outline of the Order.  More details are available in the DTI’s Guidance Note at www.dti.gov.uk.

Bulletins are for general guidance only. Legal advice should be sought before taking action in relation to specific matters. Where reference is made to Court decisions facts referred to are those reported as found by the Court. Please note that past bulletins included in the Archive have not been updated by any subsequent changes in statute or case law.