* Takes ad watchdog's ruling in favour of Tesco to judicial
* Sainsbury's says has backing of partners - Fairtrade, MSC,
* Expects high court hearing in summer 2014
* Tesco dismissive of Sainsbury's legal move
By James Davey
LONDON, Oct 30 Supermarket J Sainsbury
will take its spat over price comparisons with Tesco to
Britain's high court, challenging a ruling by the advertising
watchdog in favour of its rival.
Britain's supermarkets are battling intensely for market
share in tough economic conditions. Advertising is a major
Earlier this year, Sainsbury's complained to the Advertising
Standards Authority (ASA) over market leader Tesco's "Price
The scheme compares the cost of a basket of Tesco's branded,
own-label and fresh food against what it regarded as the same or
equivalent products from Sainsbury's and other main rivals.
Sainsbury's argued it was unfair to compare own-brand items
on price alone and not take account of provenance and other
It said it was wrong for Tesco to match products such as its
"Everyday Value" ham, which is produced somewhere in the
European Union, with Sainsbur's "basics" ham, which is British.
In July the regulator sided with Tesco. Sainsbury's
appealed, but this month the ASA's independent reviewer Hayden
Philips also ruled in Tesco's favour.
Sainsbury's, battling to be the UK's No. 2 grocer with
Wal-Mart's Asda in terms of sales, is now taking the
case to a judicial review at the high court and expects a
hearing in the summer of 2014, when it will present several
hundred examples of what it regards as unfair product
"This is a point of principle," commercial director Mike
Coupe told reporters, noting it was the first time the firm had
gone for a judicial review outside of property planning issues.
"We do not believe it is fair or reasonable to compare own
label products because almost by definition they come from
different sources," he said, adding that Sainsbury's was being
backed by partner organisations Fairtrade, the Marine
Stewardship Council (MSC), the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
and animal welfare charity the RSPCA.
Coupe said the firm particularly took issue with Tesco's
assertion that for value-conscious customers ethical
considerations do not play a part in purchasing decisions.
"This is incomprehensible because of Tesco's position on
horsemeat, where they through their advertising have said
publicly that sourcing credentials are important and yet through
their price comparisons decided that it's less important or not
important," he said.
Unlike Tesco and Asda, Sainsbury's was not implicated in a
scandal over foods found to contain horsemeat when they were
labelled as containing other meats.
Tesco dismissed Sainsbury's latest legal move. "Sainsbury's
argument against Price Promise has been heard and rejected twice
already," said Tesco's UK marketing director David Wood.
He said Tesco's scheme offered customers reassurance on the
price of their whole shop, in store and online, not just on the
"When family budgets are under pressure, that is the kind of
help customers want and the real question for Sainsbury's is why
they aren't trying to do the same for their customers?"
Tesco launched "Price Promise" in March, comparing its
prices with prices from Sainsbury's, Asda and No. 4 grocer
Morrisons. If the comparison shows the basket would have been
cheaper at a competitor, Tesco automatically issues a coupon for
the difference up to 10 pounds ($16.13) when customers receive
their shopping receipts.
Sainsbury's "Brand Match" scheme compares the prices of
branded products only.
The advertising spat is the latest in a long list of
disputes between the two grocers. Though Tesco overtook
Sainsbury's as Britain's No. 1 retailer in 1995, Sainsbury's has
performed better of late.
Tesco issued its first profit warning in over 20 years in
January 2012, while Sainsbury has posted 35 consecutive quarters
of like-for-like sales growth.