The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has called supermarket pricing confusing following a three-month probe launched after a super complaint from Which? consumer watchdog.

The CMA has announced a series of measures to improve compliance and bring greater clarity following the Which? complaint about misleading in-store promotions.

In its investigation the CMA found examples of pricing and promotional practices that have the potential to confuse or mislead consumers and which could be in breach of consumer law. Where there is evidence of breaches of consumer law this could lead to enforcement action.

It said these problems are not occurring in large numbers across the sector and retailers were generally found to take compliance seriously to avoid confusion however the CMA said more can be done to reduce complexity in unit pricing to make it a more useful comparison tool.

In its work following up on the investigation the CMA will work with businesses to cut out promotional practices which could mislead consumers. This includes the practice of running ‘was/now’ promotions where the discount price is advertised as a promotion for longer than the higher price applied.

The body will also review Trading Standards’ Pricing Practices Guide to clarify how legislation applies to promotional practices.

Nisha Arora, CMA senior director, said: “We welcomed the super-complaint, which presented us with information that demanded closer inspection. We have gathered and examined a great deal of further evidence over the past three months and are now announcing what further action we are taking and recommending others to take.

“We have found that, whilst supermarkets want to comply with the law and shoppers enjoy a wide range of choices, with an estimated 40% of grocery spending being on items on promotion, there are still areas of poor practice that could confuse or mislead shoppers. So we are recommending further action to improve compliance and ensure that shoppers have clear, accurate information.”

The CMA had 90 days to respond to the super complaint from Which? – submitted on 21 April.