In a landmark case Tesco have been fined £300,000, and ordered to pay costs of £65,000 after they were caught misleadingly claiming that 400gm punnets of strawberries selling for £1.99 were “half-price” in 2011.

The price tickets were marked with crossed-out prices of £2.99 and £3.99 and noticed by pensioner Daphne Smallman in Tesco’s Sheldon, Birmingham store. When she asked staff there whether the strawberries had ever been on sale at the crossed-out prices the staff promised they would “get back to her” but never did, rejecting her complaint. Accordingly she suspected she, and thousands of others in Tesco’s 2,300 stores were being duped by Tesco and called in local trading standards officers who investigated.

In court Tesco admitted that the strawberries had been sold for the higher, crossed-out prices for just two weeks, and the lower “half-price” for 14 weeks, this in breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations Act 2008 The lower-price sale should not last longer than the time the higher prices were being charged.

Despite the fine and costs, very large for a trading standards offence, Tesco are still estimated to have made £2.32 million from the con, described by them as a “one-off human error” an optimistic description that will please their chief executive Phillip Clarke. Clarke has been struggling to portray his paymaster as trustworthy and the consumers friend, a tough call in the wake of the horsemeat scandal.

Sadly Mrs Smallman, described in court as “tenacious” and by family and friends as “a fighter” died of cancer in February this year, six months before the case she initiated came to court.

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