Consumer White Paper: Shop Prices

White Paper: Dodgy contractors, short drinks and sharp practices in motor trade are focus of consumer crackdown
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The Independent Online
THE AIM of this measure is to compare the price of some 100 products across the UK, France, Germany and US. Items include foods such as milk, meat, pizzas and cakes. Others are jeans, court shoes, Babygros, cookers, CDs, perfume and cinema tickets. The survey will be published in January 2000 and will take place at least once a year.

Will it work? With supermarket prices under the microscope of the Competition Commission and sectors like perfume and CDs having also been investigated, this will strike a chord with consumers.

The British Retail Consortium says factors like higher rent and land prices, transport costs and legislative costs should be borne in mind when comparing prices.

The problems will be making fair and accurate comparisons. Land prices and fuel costs are lower in the US, for example, enabling shops to charge lower prices. And supermarkets in Germany are notoriously downmarket, a cheaper but depressing shopping experience. The Consumers' Association welcomed the measures but said: "When they have the results, what will they ... do about it?" The Government may hope negative publicity alone will shame shopkeepers into action.