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OFT checks out online grocers over price gouging claims

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Online grocery shopping is under the spotlight today over allegations that customers are being overcharged by some of the UK's top supermarkets. The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is understood to be sniffing around Asda, Sainbury's and Tesco amid concerns that shoppers are getting a rough deal.

According to The Sunday Times, shoppers are also concerned that out-of-stock items are replaced by cheaper substitutes at the same price, while some items aren't delivered at all. There are also concerns that some of the items picked for shoppers are close to their sell-by date, giving way to concerns that some supermarkets are offloading food with a limited shelf life, the newspaper reports.

A spokeswoman for the OFT declined to confirm which supermarkets it had contacted said they weren't under formal investigation. "I can confirm the OFT is discussion with some supermarkets but we have nothing else to add," she told The Register.

Last year a report by Good Housekeeping found the quality of service provided by the big supermarkets was sorely lacking. Not one of the test orders placed with the e-supermarkets contained all 26 items on the shopping list, while two deliveries didn't turn up at all. The fresh groceries from one supermarket were described as "poor quality" - including a dead fly inside a sealed packet of mushrooms.

In September, consumer magazine Which? reported that online grocery shopping had improved markedly compared to three years ago. ®

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