Consumers need a masters degree in shopping to negotiate the often confusing and misleading special offers in the big supermarkets.

Two-for-one, three-for-two, buy-one-get-one-free deals work if they are honest and straightforward..

But, all too often, consumers only discover that they have been ripped off when they later check their till receipts. Most are too busy to check, which means extra profits for the supermarket giants.

Some deals are so confusing that even the supermarket staff themselves find it difficult to interpret them when challenged.

Point out a mistake and the managment invariably quotes "human error.". This is hard to accept when the shelves are carefully stacked in line with special "planograms" sent out by head office.

It is common to find an end-of-aisle shelf stacked with "special offers" with one or two items expressly excluded from the deal – a sure fire way of confusing busy mums and pensioners.

Consumer law should be amended to force the big supermarkets to be honest and fair with their customers. The new test should be – if a special offer is capable of being misunderstood by anybody, it is illegal. It should be as simple as that.

Why is this idea important?

Lobbying by big business tends to water down consumer legislation before it reaches the statute book. It is time to give consumers a direct voice.

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