Tesco to cut prices on 100 women's sanitary products and pay 'tampon tax' itself

Supermarket says it will act immediately rather than wait for VAT on products to be scrapped

Benjamin Kentish
Saturday 29 July 2017 16:26 BST
The abolition of VAT on sanitary products won't come into play until at least 2018
The abolition of VAT on sanitary products won't come into play until at least 2018 (AP)

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Tesco will cut the price of almost 100 women’s sanitary products by 5 per cent and cover the cost of the “tampon tax” itself, the supermarket has announced.

The retailer will pay the controversial charge that applies to sanitary products after saying that the cost of buying the products was a “real struggle” for many of its customers.

Campaigners have long called for the charge on sanitary products to be scrapped, arguing that they are essential items and should, therefore, be exempt from tax.

The Government has reduced the rate to 5 per cent but said that EU rules stop it from lowering any further or scrapping the tax entirely.

Last year, David Cameron persuaded European ministers to change the rules to allow VAT to be removed from sanitary products, but the change cannot come into effect until at least 2018.

The move followed an online petition that attracted 320,088 signatures. Until the levy is removed, ministers have committed to donating the proceeds of the tax to women’s charities.

David Cameron announces the end of the tampon tax

Tesco said the 5 per cent reduction will apply to both its own-label products and better-known brands.

The supermarket had already committed to passing on the saving to customers if, as expected, VAT is scrapped on sanitary products in 2018. However, it has now said it will cut prices of the products immediately.

Michelle McEttrick, Tesco’s group brand director, said: “For many of our customers, tampons, panty liners and sanitary towels are essential products.

“However, the cost of buying them every month can add up, and, for many women and girls, it can be a real struggle on top of other essential items.

“That’s why – as a little help for our customers – we are reducing the cost of these products by 5 per cent.”

Campaigners welcomed the move and called on other supermarkets to adopt a similar policy. Labour MP Paula Sherriff, who has led the campaign against the tampon tax in Parliament, said: “It would have been completely unacceptable if abolishing the tampon tax had just led to big businesses boosting their bottom line at the expense of women buying what are essential goods, which is why we pushed the supermarkets to sign up to a deal to pass the cut on.

“But this goes a step even further, by reducing prices right now – and I hope the other big retailers now consider doing the same.”

The Government and the EU should make clear their timetable for scrapping VAT on sanitary products entirely, she added.

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