Sweets were the biggest culprit when it came to misleading pricing, said experts at the Hamburg consumer watchdog (VZHH) in a report released this week.
Investigators found a 300 gram bag of Haribo gummi bears on sale for 89 cents in supermarkets Aldi Nord, Kaufland, Lidl, Netto, Penny and Real.
Yet in the more up-market Rewe and Edeka shops, the same price was being charged for 200 gram bags of the sweets – amounting to a 50 percent price difference per bear.
The watchdog compared 18 branded products being sold at 10 different outlets.
“The retail and food industry are deliberately making it difficult for customers to get a clear picture of the price of a product,” said the watchdog's food expert Armin Valet.
He said that big-name manufactures were putting different amounts of food in the same size packet – and simply changing the printed weight; often ending in big profits for the company and lighter wallet for the customer.
The dairy aisle was not safe either as investigators found some shops had €1.99 nets of Babybel cheeses which contained six cheeses, while other shops had nets with seven cheeses for the same price. This amounts to a price difference of 17 percent.
“Price difference is hard to figure out,” said Valet. “As there is often very little difference in the way a product looks, carrying out direct checks between retailers isn't possible for most customers.”
To confuse things further, some supermarkets even chose to change the price slightly, so it seems like the customer is getting a better deal.
For instance, a 345 gram bag of “Nimm 2” sweets was priced at €1.99 at Aldi Nord. At the smaller retailer, Sky, a 240 gram bag was on sale for €1.95 – a lower price, despite the sweets being 40 percent more expensive.