How the supermarket price promises match up

Tesco is relaunching its loyalty scheme in a bid to reattract customers who have taken refuge at rivals Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons. Will it work?

Tesco is taking on Sainsbury’s and Asda with a Price Promise that aims to replicate its rivals’ success in attracting cash-strapped consumers through its doors.

The scheme, launched on 11 March 2013 across the UK, guarantees that Tesco will check shoppers’ baskets against prices at Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons. If the comparable basket would have been cheaper shoppers will get a voucher for the difference, up to £10.

Previously, Tesco had allowed shoppers to input the details of their receipt online to check whether their shop would have been cheaper at a rival, but now it will offer instant, at-till analysis.

So how does Tesco’s service match-up to its rivals?

Tesco Price Promise

How it works Shoppers must buy at least 10 different items, including one comparable grocery product, from any Tesco Metro, superstore or Extra store (and their attached petrol stations), as well as via the Tesco website. If you could have bought the same grocery shopping cheaper at Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, Tesco will issue you with a voucher for the difference, up to a maximum value of £10.

But the offer will not apply to Tesco Express stores, often more expensive than larger Tesco supermarkets, or Tesco Homeplus purchases.

Which products are included? Tesco will compare branded groceries (Kellogg’s Cornflakes, Ariel, Coca Cola etc) as well as its own-brand products (where an equivalent is sold at Asda, Sainsbury’s or Morrisons). It will also compare price reductions and promotions such as multibuy purchases (buy one get one free etc), as well as price cuts, for example a discount from 99p to 50p.

Which are excluded? For a full list of exclusions visit the Tesco website, and there are a lot. Tesco will not compare any electrical item, home and furniture items, CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays, DIY and car items, toys, baby and toddler accessories, gifts and jewellery, clothing, phones, opticians, beauty centre products, cafe items, fuel, photo-processing and associated services, newspapers, magazines, stamps, tobacco and cigarettes.

Tesco will also not include meal deals, combination offers such as buy-cheese-and-get-crackers-free, category-wide deals such as 5% off six bottles of wine, and multiple offers (when Tesco or a competitor has more than one offer on the same products running at the same time, such as buy two for £3 or buy five for £6).

How do I claim? You will be given a voucher at the till if your basket would have been cheaper elsewhere, or you’ll be sent an email if you do an online shop. Shoppers must use their vouchers within 28 days and are not allowed to spend them on fuel, lottery tickets, tobacco, infant formula, pharmacy products, gift cards, E–top–ups, stamps, opticians and travel money. Nor can you use them in the Tesco bank or cafe or on entertainment or clothing, in the phone shop or through Tesco Direct.

Sainsbury’s Brand Match

How it works Sainsbury’s shoppers have their basket of branded grocery goods compared with the cost of the same goods at Asda and Tesco (Morrisons isn’t included in the comparison). If the branded goods would have been cheaper at either store, including in-promotional deals, shoppers will immediately receive a coupon equal to the value of the difference. Shoppers can redeem this the next time they shop.

Customers must spend a minimum of £20 and their basket must include at least one item that is identical (same size/quantity, flavour etc) to one available in Asda or Tesco.

Online shops are excluded, as are certain stores across the country and some central London outlets.

Brand Match coupons will also not be issued at petrol stations, Sainsbury’s Local or convenience stores.

Which products are included? Most branded grocery products.

Which products are excluded? Supermarket’s own label products are excluded from Brand Match. Those aside, the list of exclusions mirrors Tesco’s. Online shopping is not eligible for Brand Match, and like at Tesco, Sainsbury’s also excludes one-off deals and combinations offers.

How do I claim? Any coupons must be redeemed within 14 days and the maximum you can get back is £10. You cannot buy fuel or spend your coupons on prescriptions, online, at cafes or restaurants, or on concessions.

Asda Price Guarantee

How it works Originally launched in 2010, the Asda Price Guarantee – “The price promise the others wish they could match” – says that if it isn’t 10% cheaper than rivals Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Waitrose it will give you the difference. But the comparison does not happen at the till – you must visit the Asda website and enter your receipt details.

To be eligible you need to have bought at least eight different items, of which at least one should be comparable with Asda’s main competitors. The difference is paid as a voucher, which must be used in an Asda store within 28 days.

Which products are included? Any comparable grocery product.

Which products are excluded? Categories not currently covered include: home, electricals, furnishings, garden, entertainment, hardware, sports, toys, George, tobacco, newspapers, magazines, jewellery, pharmacy, optical, fuel, photo-processing, dry cleaning and all online-only products including financial services, flowers, mobile, travel and gifts.

Also, like its rivals, promotions that make it difficult for Asda to compare fairly are excluded from the price guarantee.

How do I claim? Claims must be made within 28 days either in-store or online.

Waitrose Brand price match

How it works Waitrose launched its Brand price match in autumn 2010. Although it does not offer any discount vouchers if it finds goods could have been bought cheaper elsewhere, the Brand price match is a long-term commitment to match Tesco prices on 1,000 everyday branded goods that customers buy most frequently.

Morrisons Easter Payday Bonus

How it works Morrisons currently operates a campaign where anyone who spends £35 or more in one transaction between 4 March and 24 March 2013 will get a coupon at the checkout. If they collect one coupon each week for three consecutive weeks they can present them all at the checkout and £10 will be automatically taken off the value of their shop – if they spend another £35 or more.

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Tax haven London targeted by activists armed with adverts (and palm trees)

Global collective The Rules launches ‘Visit the City’ mock campaign in bid to shine light on tax avoidance

Over a year after the end of the Occupy tented protests in the City of London, a new movement has sprung up to challenge the global economic consensus, in this case focusing on what protesters say is the rampant, worldwide problem of corporate tax avoidance.

The campaign, launched on Monday, features a mock corporate video and a set of posters seemingly extolling the virtues of the City as a place to do business. The slogan is: “Visit the City of London – the tax haven capital of the world”.

It has been organised by a group called The Rules, a loose global collective with links to Occupy, which aims to stage a number of campaigns based on what it sees as major issues connected to fairness and equality in each country.

The London campaign, in which the group has bought poster space on phone boxes and produced the video above, is aimed at focusing attention on tax avoidance and evasion during the UK’s presidency of the G8 group of industrialised nations and ahead of elections later this month in the Corporation of London.

While the Corporation stresses it has no special status related to tax and brings no tax advantages to companies based within its environs, the campaign argues it nonetheless gets special treatment from government – not least because of the square mile’s vehement lobbying – and says City-based firms widely use overseas tax havens.

Corporate tax avoidance has become an increasingly controversial issue, in no small part thanks to the efforts of another loosely organised campaign group, UK Uncut, which has highlighted the tax affairs of companies including Vodafone, Goldman Sachs and Starbucks.

Alnoor Ladha, from The Rules, said: “This campaign is about bringing a global voice to the UK tax debate. This affects us all. The City of London is a global hub for the tax haven spider web that extracts wealth from the developing world. We stand in solidarity with the brave citizens of the UK that are fighting the unjust practices of their government.

“To be clear, this not about a couple of bad apples, such as Starbucks or Amazon. It’s about the underlying system that allows the few to benefit at the expense of the majority.”

The campaign is also intended to promote a more traditional, Occupy-style street event in the City this Saturday, where The Rules will join with activists from Occupy and UK Uncut to – the promise goes – “transform a space in the City of London into a tropical tax haven”.

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Should I accept a promotion without a payrise?

I don’t know whether to refuse more work while remaining on my current pay, or embrace the opportunity to beef up my CV while being underpaid

Each Friday and Monday we publish the problems that will feature in a forthcoming Dear Jeremy advice column in the Guardian Money supplement so that readers can offer their own advice and suggestions. We then print the best of your comments alongside Jeremy’s own insights. Here is the latest dilemma – what are your thoughts?

I’ve been employed in a secretarial/support position for the past two years. There have been many changes to my role within that time, and I have taken on and lost various responsibilities.

My line manager, who previously did my job, has struggled in her position and taken the decision to leave the company. I am very worried it will be assumed that I will take on her responsibilities.

While I relish the opportunity to learn and move forward in my career, I know for a fact the company will refuse to pay me more for it. I have pushed several times for a pay rise but got nowhere.

My dilemma is, do I dig my heels in and refuse to take on this work while remaining on a secretarial pay grade, or should I embrace the opportunity to learn more things and beef up my CV while knowing I am underpaid?

• For Jeremy’s and readers’ advice on a work issue, send a brief email to dear.jeremy@guardian.co.uk. Please note that he is unable to answer questions of a legal nature or reply personally.

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High street sales forecast to shrink £13bn in next five years

Business that invested heavily in bricks and mortar may struggle as online sales predicted to more than double to £70bn by 2020

Tough times on the high street show no sign of abating, with sales from bricks-and-mortar stores expected to shrink by £13bn in the next five years, as customers continue to flock online.

Internet sales in the UK will more than double to £69.7bn by 2020, from an estimated £28bn in 2012, according to the investment firm Panmure Gordon.

“If retailers think the last 10 years have been tough for the industry, the next five years look even worse,” said Philip Dorgan, investment analyst at the company.  “There are going to be far more losers than winners.”

Businesses that are heavily invested in property are tipped to struggle, such as Argos-owner Home Retail. Ocado, the grocery delivery service, is also predicted to fare poorly, as it continues to underperform the fast-growing online food market.

Online shopping is expected to peak at 30% of all sales.

“Having stores in every high street will no longer be an advantage,” said Dorgan. The most successful retailers would be the ones who use data about their customers to best advantage, he said, an area where the likes of Amazon has a head start.

One of the biggest winners could be online fashion retailer ASOS, which recently enjoyed a 41% rise in Christmas sales.

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Leaseholders ‘at risk’ from court judgment

A leaseholder group fears decision will be used by freeholders to ‘bamboozle’ lessees into paying for expensive and unnecessary work on their blocks

Leaseholders in blocks of flats have lost a significant protection against landlords who fail to properly consult about often enormously expensive repairs to their properties.

One leaseholder group fears a judgment in the UK supreme court this week, limiting consultation rights, will be used by freeholders to “bamboozle” lessees into paying for expensive and unnecessary work on their blocks.

Until now, if freeholders failed to follow proper procedure for consulting lessees on renovations, the cost of which can be added to service charges, they risked having to foot almost the whole bill for themselves.

Now the UK supreme court has ruled that the tough sanction, contained in Section 20 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, should only apply if leaseholders have suffered actual “relevant prejudice” as a result of a landlord’s failure to follow the procedures.

The lessees will now have to prove they have lost out by showing, for example, that they could have found a cheaper contractor for the work if properly consulted.

The regulations, brought in by Labour in 2002, arose out of fears that freehold owners of leasehold flats had no incentive to get the best deals for work on their buildings, since any inflated costs would simply go on the service charges of their lessees.

There have been particular problems where local authority tenants have bought their flats only to find huge bills for repairs added to their service charges.

The law says that unless the consultation requirements are followed, or a dispensation is given by the leasehold valuation tribunal (LVT), the landlord cannot recover more than £250 from each lessee for the work – a tiny sum when bills can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Landlords complain the law gives huge windfall gains for technical breaches of the regulations – often when consultation would have made no difference to the lessees.

Under the rules landlords should provide details of proposed work to lessees; obtain estimates for the work; invite the lessees to propose other contractors; and take account of their views on the work.

In the case before the supreme court, Daejan Investments v Benson, Lord Neuberger noted: “The purpose of the requirements is to ensure that tenants [ie lessees] are protected from paying for inappropriate works, or paying more than would be appropriate.”

But he added: “There is no justification for treating consultation and transparency as appropriate ends in themselves.”

Daejan owned Queens Mansion in Muswell Hill, north London, where five flats were held under long leases. The property’s management company complied with only part of the consultation requirements for a big renovation in 2005, according to evidence to the LVT.

Daejan wanted £280,000 from the leaseholders for the work, but offered a reduction of £50,000 during legal proceedings. However, a LVT considered Daejan’s failure to be serious and refused to give the company a dispensation from the requirements. Daejan was faced with having to accept only £1,250 for the work.

The court of appeal backed the leaseholders, but the supreme court ruled in favour of Daejan, with Neuberger saying: “The correct question in this case was whether, if dispensation was granted, the respondents would suffer any relevant prejudice.”

In other words the leaseholders needed to show they were out of pocket as a result of the failure to consult properly. In this case the court decided Daejan’s £50,000 offer more than covered any harm they might have suffered.

Bob Smytherman, chairman of the Federation of Private Residents’ Associations, said: “Managing agents will use decisions like this to bamboozle leaseholders into extra expense. They will be carrying out unnecessary bureaucratic works and charging it to the service charges account.”

Leaseholders had already been campaigning for reform of the limited protections of the consultation regulations, and the latest judgment would make things “substantially worse, making our processes even more complex,” he said.

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British women slip down scale on job security and equal pay

Survey of women in work, published on International Women’s Day, ranks UK 18th of 27 countries on job security and pay

Women in the UK have lower job security and greater pay inequality than those in other developed countries, research shows. They are also less likely to be in work than their counterparts in other OECD countries, according to the report by PriceWaterHouseCoopers (PwC).

The Women in Work Index ranked the UK 18th of 27 OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries in five areas of “female economic empowerment” such as pay equality, the female unemployment rate, and the proportion of women working full-time. The figures were from 2011, the latest year for which comparable data was available.

PwC compared the figures for 2011 with the same data for 2007 and 2000 and found UK women had slipped down the table – a result of rising female unemployment, above-average pay inequality, and fewer full-time employment opportunities.

The report’s author, Yong Jing Teow, said: “It is worrying that the UK’s progress in encouraging more women into work and closing the gender pay gap has all but ground to a halt since the recession hit. While most other OECD countries have continued to move ahead, our progress appears to have stalled.”

The gender wage gap has narrowed in almost all countries since 2000, except for Italy, Portugal and France, with the Nordic countries leading PwC’s latest index. Norway is in top position because of its high rate of female participation in the labour force and a low gender pay gap, followed by Sweden and Denmark. The three countries also occupied the top three positions in 2000, 2007 and 2011.

The research was published on International Women’s Day and coincides with a separate report, by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, showing that more women – and men – are working beyond the traditional retirement age in the UK, swelling the UK’s public finances by around £2.1bn.

Since April 2010 the age at which women can first receive a state pension has been rising from 60. It is currently 61 years and five months and is due to rise to 66 by 2020.

The IFS says this is having a strong effect in increasing employment among those women directly affected. It has also changed the behaviour of some of the husbands of the affected women – who are delaying their own retirement, possibly to retire together or perhaps to cover their wives’ lost pension income.

In April 2012, there were 27,000 more women in work than there would otherwise have been as a result of the increase in the female state pension age – from age 60 to 61 – between April 2010 and April 2012.

Employment rates among their husbands increased by 4.2 percentage points, meaning 8,300 more men were in work than would otherwise have been.

Jonathan Cribb, a research economist at the IFS and co-author of the report, said: “Increasing the age at which women can first receive their state pension has led to significant numbers of women deferring their retirement, with over half aged 60 now in paid work for the first time ever. So, despite the weak performance of the UK economy over these two years, many have been able to limit the loss of state pension income through increased earnings.”

Pensions minister Steve Webb welcomed the IFS’s findings, stating: “It is good news. An extra year or two of paid work can bring a big boost to someone’s state and private pension entitlement, and they will still go on to enjoy an average of more than two decades of retirement.”

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Council tax: hundreds of authorities opt to freeze rates

Figures show more than 250 authorities will accept a central grant for a freeze or reduction in council tax for 2013-14

At least 230 councils in England are freezing or reducing their council tax for 2013-14, including 28 of the 33 London local authorities, according to latest government figures.

Those not raising their bills range from the council of the Isles of Scilly in the south to Northumberland county council in the north.

The communities and local government department (DCLG) said its latest data showed that at least 257 out of 421 authorities intended to accept the government’s grant offer and freeze or reduce their council tax for 2013-14, though the final numbers would not be known until later this month.

This number includes 12 police authorities and 15 fire authorities.

According to the list, those intending to cut their council tax include Hounslow and Hammersmith & Fulham councils in London, Braintree in Essex, Cotswold in Gloucestershire, and Lancashire county council.

The local government minister, Brandon Lewis, recently praised Cotswold district council following its decision in February to reduce council tax by 5% for 2013-14, which has been described as the biggest cut in the country.

The DCLG said the government had set aside £450m over two years as part of the autumn statement package to help support local authorities in freezing their council tax for the coming financial year. It highlighted a recent survey by pollsters Ipsos Mori in which 64% of those asked disagreed with the statement “I would be happy to pay more council tax if it helped my local council maintain current levels of service”.

In February, a study was published showing that four out of five local councils want full control over setting council tax bills in 2014, rather than having to seek residents’ approval for rises of more than 2%.

Separate research by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy suggested 41% of councils will shun the call to resist raising bills in April, despite the offer of a 1% grant in return, and indicated the average increase among councils opting to increase bills would be 1.1%.

Meanwhile, local government secretary Eric Pickles announced a change that will allow people to pay their council tax bills over a year instead of 10 months.

“As council tax bills starting landing on doormats in the next few weeks, people will discover they can now pay online or set up their direct debit payment plans for 12 months instead of the old 10,” he said. “This important change will help local taxpayers safeguard their family finances by lowering their payments for 10 months by about £24 with just a simple phone call.”

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Council tax: hundreds of authorities opt to freeze rates

Figures show more than 250 authorities will accept a central grant for a freeze or reduction in council tax for 2013-14

At least 230 councils in England are freezing or reducing their council tax for 2013-14, including 28 of the 33 London local authorities, according to latest government figures.

Those not raising their bills range from the council of the Isles of Scilly in the south to Northumberland county council in the north.

The communities and local government department (DCLG) said its latest data showed that at least 257 out of 421 authorities intended to accept the government’s grant offer and freeze or reduce their council tax for 2013-14, though the final numbers would not be known until later this month.

This number includes 12 police authorities and 15 fire authorities.

According to the list, those intending to cut their council tax include Hounslow and Hammersmith & Fulham councils in London, Braintree in Essex, Cotswold in Gloucestershire, and Lancashire county council.

The local government minister, Brandon Lewis, recently praised Cotswold district council following its decision in February to reduce council tax by 5% for 2013-14, which has been described as the biggest cut in the country.

The DCLG said the government had set aside £450m over two years as part of the autumn statement package to help support local authorities in freezing their council tax for the coming financial year. It highlighted a recent survey by pollsters Ipsos Mori in which 64% of those asked disagreed with the statement “I would be happy to pay more council tax if it helped my local council maintain current levels of service”.

In February, a study was published showing that four out of five local councils want full control over setting council tax bills in 2014, rather than having to seek residents’ approval for rises of more than 2%.

Separate research by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy suggested 41% of councils will shun the call to resist raising bills in April, despite the offer of a 1% grant in return, and indicated the average increase among councils opting to increase bills would be 1.1%.

Meanwhile, local government secretary Eric Pickles announced a change that will allow people to pay their council tax bills over a year instead of 10 months.

“As council tax bills starting landing on doormats in the next few weeks, people will discover they can now pay online or set up their direct debit payment plans for 12 months instead of the old 10,” he said. “This important change will help local taxpayers safeguard their family finances by lowering their payments for 10 months by about £24 with just a simple phone call.”

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